Chip Port, with the Southern Oregon Military Vehicle Collectors Club, hangs a flag on an infantry fighting vehicle Saturday before the Medford Veterans Day parade. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]

Crowd gathered Saturday to support veterans

Hundreds of people flocked to the center of Medford Saturday to celebrate the servicemen and women who dedicated themselves to their country.

Medford City Councilor Kevin Stine estimated that Saturday's crowd at the annual Veterans Day celebration and parade was double or triple the usual turnout. Stine marched in the parade as a Navy veteran and with ACCESS, where he works to secure housing and assistance for homeless veterans.

"I think we should have it on a Saturday every year," Stine said, looking at a crowd of motorcyclists and military vehicles.

The event allowed Stine, who enlisted in late 2003, to reflect on his experiences on the communications deck of a Naval submarine that could stay submerged for months at a time. He recalled the 130-person vessel as cramped, but he said it fostered a "brotherhood" of close relationships.

"It's something you don't experience on the outside," Stine said.

From veteran to veteran, the reasons varied as to why they enlisted. James Ira, a resident at the Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics, said he served in the Army from 1981 to 1990 to get away from the South Bronx where he grew up.

"I wanted to get away from my abusive father," Ira said. "I wanted something different."

The military taught him heavy welding and provided him access to specialty schools, giving him trades he pursued in civilian life, but his eyesight is failing him now. He supports himself selling intricate drawings that resemble blueprints.

On his motorcycle, Stephen Trujillo rode in the parade to support of his son, who became a Marine. Trujillo said the military had helped his son find himself.

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

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