JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
Reserve Citizen Airmen with the 433rd Airlift Wing, 960th Cyberspace Wing, 340th Flying Training Group and 23rd Intelligence Squadron participated in San Antonio’s 74th annual Fiesta Flambeau parade, the largest illuminated night parade in the United States according to the official Flambeau organization website, on April 9.
One of three parades and multiple Fiesta events, the Fiesta Flambeau parade began in 1948. With the word Flambeau meaning “tall, decorated candlestick,” in French, participants used their floats and outfits to illuminate the night during the celebration.
This year’s parade theme was “Celebrating Literary Classics.” The consolidated group represented the Air Force Reserve by creating a float spotlighting retired Senior Master Sgt. James Bynum, a local Tuskegee Airman who served during World War II.
“We decided to highlight the Tuskegee Airmen,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Wade, 433rd AW, public affairs officer. “They’re a great part of our history. We are showcasing not only what they’ve done in the past, but how their groundbreaking of the Air Force and Department of Defense led to units such as the 433rd Airlift Wing, 960th Cyberspace Wing and the 23rd Intelligence Squadron.”
Due to unforeseen circumstances, Bynum was not able to attend the parade. However, the Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland’s Airman Heritage Foundation loaned an authentic WWII uniform to a parade participant to maintain the spirit and accuracy of the time period as well as Bynum’s legacy.
“In honor of him, we decided to keep pressing forward,” Wade said. “That is why I am dressed as an authentic Tuskegee Airman by using historical belongings from our Air Force museum. We want to make sure we get it right and tell that story to everyone.”
After a two year pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Reserve unit members came together for the first time to not only create the float but to show camaraderie post-lockdown by walking in the parade together.
“This is the first year that 340th Flying Training Group, the 960th Cyberspace Wing and the 433rd Airlift Wing all participated together,” said Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Howard, 340th FTG senior enlisted leader. “When we talk about COVID-19, we not only brought everyone back together but we brought wings together under this particular event.”
According to the Fiesta San Antonio Commission, 750,000 spectators attended the parade. As they cheered and waved while the float rode by, Howard spoke of his excitement and enjoyment of being a part of the San Antonio community, especially during this annual event.
“I haven’t been part of a community like San Antonio before that really embraces the military,” Howard said. “The feeling of walking down that parade route with all of the community coming out and their outpouring of support is amazing.”