Jack Hoffman was drafted 76 years ago into the U.S. Army.
Now a resident of Port Charlotte’s Douglas T. Jacobson State Veterans Nursing Home, Hoffman was an army engineer. He served from 1943 to 1946, and was in both the European and Pacific Theaters.
“It gets to me,” Hoffman said, watching dozens of floats and their festive occupants celebrating veterans everywhere. He even saw his fellow nursing home friends and neighbors on a float, in which he was asked to participate.
But he chose to watch the parade with his family, instead, like he has done for the past six years.
Hoffman, who’s 95, joined hundreds of onlookers Saturday morning to watch the Veterans Appreciation Parade, which was held by the Punta Gorda Elk’s Lodge.
“You don’t realize the impact (veterans) have until people come from all over to say ‘thank you,’” said Tracy Douglas, Hoffman’s step-daughter.
Approximately 40 floats, cars and performances moved along Taylor Street for the parade. Its grand marshal was also a World War II veteran, 98-year-old Anna Wojtalik, who had served with the U.S. Navy.
Judges at the end of the parade did award prizes to the best floats, according to organizer Dave Casadei. The Royal Order of Ponce de Leon Conquistadors won first prize, while the Charlotte High School band took second, and the Vietnam Brotherhood won third.
The Punta Gorda Elks have hosted this parade since 2006, Casadei said.