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AZTEC — On a sunny fall day a crowd that included families with children and veterans lined Main Avenue to honor those who served during Aztec's annual Veterans Day Parade. 

"We come from a long line of military veterans," said Jennie Wietharn-Yoakum, an Aztec resident who watched the parade with her two toddlers, Elaina and Clayton. "We want to support our veterans who gave us this great country."

The parade, which lasted 15 minutes, saw local Aztec High School JROTC students carrying a giant American flag down most of the length of Main Ave. in downtown Aztec, as well as a procession of veterans on motorcycles.

There was a float commemorating unidentified and missing military veterans, a tribute to military veterans from throughout American history and a float honoring Native American veterans.    

"Yeah, I worked for Uncle Sam," Francis Mitchell said with a hearty chuckle, referring to his service in the U.S. Marines during the Vietnam War. Mitchell, who was born in Fort Wingate in 1944, grew up in Ohio, but moved to the Navajo Reservation to reconnect with his family and his Navajo heritage after he was discharged from the Marines in 1969.

Since then, Mitchell served as the principal at Navajo Academy (the previous name of Navajo Preparatory School) in the 1980s, and has advocated for military veterans in and around Farmington since then. 

Mitchell said he came to the parade for two reasons — because two of his grandparents were Navajo Code Talkers during World War II and he wanted to honor them, and "to represent Native Americans."

As the parade passed and attendees left Main Ave. a large American flag hung from the balcony of Lil Aztec Flower Shop, fluttering in the wind.       

Sam Ribakoff is a visual journalist for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-333-5283 or via email at sribakoff@daily-times.com.

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