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Torchlight Parade honors military, challenges youth

Sun., May 20, 2012

For the Spokane community, the Lilac Festival Armed Forces Torchlight Parade is a chance to get out and have fun with friends and family.

With more than 200 high school bands, community floats, military units, veterans groups and equestrian units participating, there is plenty to be enjoyed.

“I love the fun of the festivities,” said parade attendee Sheri Clark. “The local talent, the bands and just how big it is. It’s a bigger parade than most places you go.”

The parade, in part, honors former and current service men and women from all branches of the military.

“It’s great to be able to support them,” Clark said. “It’s not very often we get to thank our hard workers.”

For the Beattie family, the 74th annual parade Saturday was a way to memorialize a loved one who sacrificed his life in service to his country.

The Beatties marched in the parade in memory of Army Sgt. 1st Class Clifford Beattie, 37, of Medical Lake, “because he’s my dad,” said Jaydean Hamilton, 18, wearing her father’s dog tags.

Beattie, who served in the Army more than 17 years, was killed in action in Baghdad on May 22, 2011, by an improvised explosive device.

“It’s a way to remember,” said his mother, Rhonda Beattie, as she fought back tears Friday evening. “They’re not just a number. They had families and it’s important to realize there are families for every one of those people. We don’t ever want this to turn out like Vietnam. We want people to respect military and what they’ve done.”

The family is still grappling with the loss of their loved one.

“Things like this are going to open wounds to a certain extent,” Rhonda Beattie said. “But it’s also a step toward healing.”

Beattie’s daughter, mother, sister Misty Carson and ex-wife Samantha Beattie marched in the parade. His father, Victor Beattie, was in charge of taking photos.

“It’s something I can do for him, just to remember him,” Samantha Beattie said.

An upcoming ceremony in Washington, D.C., honoring the family Monday will serve as a tribute to their son but also will be a painful reminder of their loss.

Rhonda and Victor Beattie will attend the ceremony, which, coincidentally, takes place exactly one year after their son was killed. They were one of two families selected through the VA system nationwide to receive a portrait of their fallen soldier as part of “Portraits of Patriotism,” by artist Phil Taylor.

“It’s an honor for Cliff,” Rhonda Beattie said. “I’m sure there were a lot of people that wanted to have this done and they chose Cliff.”

In addition to honoring those who serve in the military, the parade highlights Spokane’s youth and serves as a celebration of the region.

This year’s theme was “Dream and Reach for the Stars.”

“It’s a twofold theme, in that it is a tribute to our military, who defends our American dream,” festival President Hal Patton said when he was elected last year, “and a challenge to our youth to dream big and work for those dreams.”

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