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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Patriots on parade, loud and proud
An aging founder and war veteran looks on, mostly with satisfaction.
By BEN MONTGOMERY, Times Staff Writer
Published November 11, 2007
One of the original parade organizers, Tom Hughey watches the 14th annual Verterans Day parade in Town 'N Country.
[Daniel Wallace | Times ]
TAMPA - Before the parade got started, before the dancing pirate chicks and the flying beads and the clowns on tiny motorcycles, Colina Macaluso and her children passed out little American flags from a red wagon.
It was precious.
Her son Austin, all of 20 months and periodically wearing a Dr. Seuss hat, randomly handed bundles of them to the people parked on Hanley Road.
Macaluso was a middle schooler in 1984 when her father started the Town 'N Country Veterans Day parade.
She tapped out letters on a typewriter, inviting Hillsborough County marching bands to bring their horns and drums. The operation was small back then.
That has changed. The parade tends to grow each year. Saturday's drew thousands.
Her father, Thomas Hughey, was sitting down the road. He had a heart attack a few months back, she said. He's 75 now.
"This is the first parade he hasn't organized."
She walked toward him, her husband pulling the wagon, the kids holding tight. She found him sitting curbside just as the parade started past Jackson Springs Road.
The old man was wearing a stiff white shirt buttoned to the neck. His cap said Purple Heart, and it covered a scar above his right eyebrow.
He got that when he took shrapnel in February of '71, on patrol in Chu Lai, Vietnam. He was Navy medical corpsman for a Marine unit.
A tour in Korea, two in Vietnam, then back here, to Town 'N Country, a swath of suburbia between Tampa and Tampa Bay.
He started the parade here because Hillsborough County and Tampa couldn't get it together, he said.
"I said, 'That stinks.' So we started it."
By "we," he means American Legion Post 152.
As the parade ticked past, he sat beside a World War II veteran, dignitaries in plastic chairs.
A man rolled past in a convertible. The man's name is Patrick Luckey.
His boy, Bryan, grew up here. He wore a tie to class at Leto High School and drilled with the ROTC. He wanted to be a Baptist preacher but put all that on hold after Sept. 11.
They brought Army Sgt. Bryan Luckey home on July 8, 2006, in the cargo hold of a US Airways flight, cut down by a sniper's bullet during a mission with the 172nd Stryker Brigade in Mosul, Iraq. His dad was on the tarmac that day, waiting.
Now here he was, heading the parade. He looked over at the veterans and shot a thumbs-up.
He was followed by women dressed as pirates, by at least three floats playing Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. on a loop. By very American things like Ronald McDonald riding in a Volkswagen, a Boy Scout playing air guitar to Lee Greenwood's Proud to Be an American, the Thieves of San Lorenzo krewe dancing to a hip-hop beat, a wanna-be politician riding in a fire truck, Dodge Rams blowing exhaust, men riding circles on motorcycles and a private school band playing the Marines' Hymn on bagpipes.
And lots of people slinging shiny plastic beads.
"I like the idea of the spirit of patriotism and the solidarity of the community," Hughey said, "but I don't approve of this."
This being the beads.
"Jose Gaspar was not a veteran," Hughey said.
Not long after, a man in a cowboy hat and suspenders approached the veterans and bequeathed gold-colored necklaces.
When the man walked away, Hughey took them off and set them aside.
"Make some noise!" said a man on a float. "Let's get our hands in the air."
A man in a motorized wheelchair sped by, not part of the parade, a HELP VETERANS sign hanging around his neck, a wad of dollar bills in his fist.
Kids ran for candy and beads, clutching those little American flags.