For veteran Makissa Lewis, leading the 44th Annual Miami Lakes Veterans Parade was a way to further her cause of supporting women who have served in the military.
Lewis, 45, of Port St. Lucie, was this year’s grand marshal. She rode in a car along the mile-long parade through downtown Miami Lakes on Nov. 5 and spoke at Town Hall during the ceremony that followed.
“There is nothing that we can give you to thank you for your service and there is nothing we can give you for your continued service to the community and female veterans,” Veterans Committee Chair William G. Perez said.
Perez presented Lewis with a flag that was folded into a triangle and set in a commemorative box. It was a touching moment that brought up some emotions for Lewis and prompted applause from the audience.
“For those of you not aware, the fact I’m able to get [this flag] is a huge deal,” Lewis said. “Because if not, someone is putting it on my casket.”
Lewis said the gesture from the Miami Lakes Veterans Committee, which organizes the parade with the town and other volunteers, was “huge.”
Lewis served 11 years in the U.S. Army. From 1996 to 2007, she was stationed in Germany; Kansas and Korea; did a tour of combat in Iraq and served as reservist. Among her military awards are the Army Commendation medal; Combat Action badge; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service medals and Iraq Campaign Medal with a Campaign star, her record showed.
Returning stateside, Lewis founded My Seester Inc.
“Our mission is to create a safe meeting place for the female veterans who have transitioned out of service,” Lewis said.
It also provides mentors, educational resources and life coaches.
Among the struggles of female veterans are economic disparity and homelessness, Lewis said. “Even with the population being large, the female veteran is somewhat invisible.”
About 20 veterans enjoyed lunch in Town Hall provided by Mission BBQ of Weston.
Seventy-eight groups from across Miami-Dade County – school bands, dance groups and civic organizations – came to march in Miami Lakes.
There were also classic cars and characters from Star Wars. They were joined by members of the Miami Lakes Town Council: Mayor Manny Cid and councilmen Luis Collazo and Tony Fernandez.
Miami-Dade County Police Dept.’s new mounted unit, with horses named Pepper, Crockett and Jack, helped lead the march.
Mascots from area professional sports teams -- Burnie from the Miami Heat; Billy the Marlin from the Miami Marlins and Stanley C. Panther from the Florida Panthers hockey team posed for photos with kids. Heat dancers Isabella Ramirez and Gina Tritto also performed.
Sponsors for the event included the Town of Miami Lakes; The Graham Companies; Solis Health Plans; Miami Lakes AutoMall and Montes Family McDonald’s.