For a complete list of events, see fortwayne.com:
•8 a.m.-5 p.m. Antiques in the Park, McCulloch Park, 1700 Broadway
•1-11 p.m. Fort Wayne Newspapers Corn Hole Classic in Headwaters West gated pavilion
•8 a.m.-6 p.m. Chalk Walk, 300 E. Main St.
Two months ago Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Long agreed to be today's Three Rivers Festival parade grand marshal on one condition: the American Legion Riders of Post 409 from Leo-Cedarville would be in the parade, too, as his escort. It was agreed.
This year's Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival parade, sponsored by Lutheran Health Network, honors returning service members.
And the American Legion Riders of Post 409 were there when Long returned from a journey to Afghanistan, and, he says, heaven, after he was severely injured.
Long joined the Marine Corps in January 2009 and was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines in August of the same year. He said his battalion worked hard in training, knowing that they would be in Afghanistan by early the next year. In December 2010, the 3rd Battalion was deployed.
“Once we were overseas, we all quickly realized that Afghanistan’s not a video game,” said the father of one. “No respawning (bringing a character back to life). None of that.”
Long said his battalion had the highest casualty count of any in Marine Corps history per single battalion in a short period of time. On Dec. 21, 2010, Long stepped on an improvised explosive device while on patrol.
He said he was suddenly thrown on his side, his legs hurting terribly. He remembers seeing his mangled lowered limbs.
Long said died, went to heaven and talked with God. He said God welcomed him to heaven, but sent him back to life “at the last minute” to take care of his family.
Long woke up to find his buddies around him. They stayed with him another half-hour.
It took a helicopter 45 minutes to reach him.
Both of Long’s legs had to be amputated.
After the injury, he spent three days in Afghanistan and two in Germany before returning to the States.
He was welcomed home on his wedding anniversary on Dec. 26. He said he was surprised to be welcomed home by a crowd, the 409 Legion riders among them.
The riders and their motorcycles escorted Long to their headquarters where they threw a party in his honor. “It was nice to see so many people show up and seeing people on the sides of the streets waving at me,” Long said.
Becoming more independent despite his injury has been Long’s project since Afghanistan. He stays outdoors and active with fishing, hunting, and remote-control helicopters.
Next week he plans to begin an apprenticeship with a construction group. He said he will work to earn a license to use an excavator machine.