The Great Lakes Navy Band, along with local Army Reserve Soldiers participated in Chicago’s 70th Annual Columbus Day Parade with more than 150 units between floats, bands and marching units from a variety of organizations and cultures.
“We are here on Columbus Day to celebrate the legacy of Columbus which displays the great diversity of America,” said parade marshal Lou Rago. “We have representatives from Poland, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Columbus Day is for everybody.”
While a range of cultural displays were represented, the parade provided an opportunity for Italian Americans to celebrate their heritage and contributions to the United States.
“My dad emigrated here from Italy when he was seven years old,” said Army Reserve Lt. Col. Arturo Napolitano, Commander, 318th Theater Public Affairs Support Element, Arlington Heights, Illinois. “My grandfather wanted to be an Army Engineer. What I think of is my father and grandfather’s hard work. I’m proud of who we are, where we came from and the contributions we make to this country.”
Soldiers from the 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command, also headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois, provided a color guard for the parade; Capt. Michael Ariola, Public Affairs Officer, 85th USARSC, along with Napolitano served as honorary Grand Marshals.
“It was an honor to represent the United States Army Reserve as an Italian American in this year’s Columbus Day parade celebrating Italian culture and the spirit of exploration,” said Ariola. “I am a Chicago native and third generation Italian American and this is my second time marching in Chicago’s Columbus Day parade. It’s a wonderful experience to interact with the Chicago community.”
Army veteran Flavio Cipriani, a resident of North Riverside, Illinois, wore his old uniform with an American flag tucked in his left pocket.
“I served from 1970-1972 in South Korea. I was a tank commander,” said Cipriani, who also trained Korean Soldiers on American weapons while serving in the Korean Augmentation to the United States Army (KATUSA) program.
“It’s beautiful to represent your own country and establish a rapport with the rest of the community here in Chicago. It’s very important to respect other communities.”