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HAMMOND — Robert Dyke and his young family especially liked the two yellow single-engines plane making repeated passes Saturday over the Veterans Appreciation Day parade in Hammond.

The smoke trail behind the planes was a bonus, and so was one of the passes, which was just above the tree tops.

"I love seeing it every year, watching the planes go back and forth," said Dyke, a Hammond native who now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.

More than 60 units were in the 90-minute parade down 173rd Street from Olcott Avenue to the Veterans Memorial at Hessville Park.

A 60-foot-long mechanical eagle with a 16-foot wingspan was also a real attention-getter for the bystanders on both sides of the route.

The wings, powered by an electric motor, moved up and down on a float pulled by the Baptist Church of Hammond.

Church member Dwight Vargo, after countless hours, finished building the eagle from scratch three weeks ago.

"Just about anything you can grab out of the garage" is how Vargo described the parts, like chicken wire, he used to construct the large bird.

The parade tradition was started four years ago by the mayor’s office.

Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said he knows of no other community in the region with a parade for veterans, and they deserve the recognition.

"We appreciate their sacrifice," said McDermott, a U.S Navy veteran.

The grand marshal was Lake County Assessor Jerome Prince, who served in the U.S. Marines from 1982 to 1986.

"I’m just honored to be here," Prince said.

Bishop Noll High School pulled a riverboat-looking float ahead of the school marching band playing "America The Beautiful."

Also in the parade were two restored military vehicles from 1969 and 1952, along with a golf cart retrofitted and painted Army green to look like a military Jeep.

They’re owned by Nathan Surprise, curator of the American Museum for Military Vehicles in Crown Pont.

He’s not a veteran; his interest as a collector and military history buff stems from his grandfather, Roy, serving in World War II.

"This is kind of my little salute to him serving," Surprise said.

Tracy Gereg of Hammond attended with her father, Sam, and 6-year old daughter, Brooklyn.

"We love it. We come out every year," she said.

The end of the parade was marked by a half dozen Model A Fords and about 20 Jeep Wranglers flying American flags.

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