BY TOM HESTER SR.
In what will be the largest military parade in Trenton since the end of World War II 64 years ago, 2,900 New Jersey Army National Guard soldiers will march from the Statehouse to the Soverign Bank Arena on Friday as the state officially welcomes them home after 10 months in Iraq.
The soldiers are members of the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and they took part in the state National Guard's largest deployment since World War II.
The parade will form on West State Street and the soldiers will pause at the New Jersey World War II Memorial across from the Statehouse to be recognized by Gov. Jon Corzine and Major Gen. Glenn K. Reith.The soldiers will be joined on the 1.1-mile march by high school bands from Ewing, Newark, Paterson and Trenton.
During the parade, the soldiers' families will be entertained at the arena by comedian Joe Piscopo, Broadway star Mary D'Arcy, American Idol finalist Melinda Doolittle, R&B artist Chanj and Sarah Dash, a former vocalist with Patti LaBelle and The Blue Bells. Professional sports personalities will be there to sign autographs.
Here is the schedule for the day:
10:17 a.m. — Flyover of West State Street by three UH-60 Army National Guard helicopters.
10:30 a.m. — 19-gun salute by 105mm cannons behind Statehouse.
10:32 a.m. — Each of the brigade's 24 companies stop at the memorial to be greeted by Corzine and Reith.
10:34 a.m. — Parade moves along the 1.1 mile route along South Broad Street to arena.
At the arena:
10:00 a.m. — Families may enter.
12:00 p.m. — The first Guard companies enter the arena.
Route 206 in Trenton will be closed during the event.