By Jessica Priest
Temple Daily Telegram
BELTON — Bouncing on her mother's hip, the Fourth of July festivities in Belton must have seemed to Maddy Noranbrock like a blur of red, white and blue.
It was, after all, the 3-month-old's first time at a parade that's become to thousands an institution.
"She is loving it so far," said her mother, Megan Noranbrock, who came back in September from a one-year Iraq deployment. "I used to come here every Fourth of July when I was a little girl, so it's nice to be able to pass that tradition on."
A few blocks down it also was the first visit for Maj. Nico Teerds of the Netherland's 11 Air Mobile Brigade.
He and his unit drove from Fort Hood to see the fanfare firsthand. He said it was nothing like his homeland's "Queens Day."
"Everything is new for us," he said as droves of people toting lawn chairs, toddlers and snow cones lined North Main Street and East Central Avenue to watch some 210 patriotic vehicles float by. "What I love about your country is the respect everyone has for the Army."
Respect is what prompted Alma Jo Barrera to revamp a Volkswagen Super Beetle.
The 39-year-old car, which has dog tags and soldiers painted on its interior seats, is a shrine to her grandfather Ysabel Barrera, Gen. George Patton's driver during World War II, and others like him.
When asked how many names are etched on the car's windows, Barrera shrugged, smiling, "You know I've never actually counted."
She's just amazed it's lasted this long.
"This car should have been destroyed," Barrera said of how it was impounded for two years because its identification number was scratched off, "but it's a survivor. Our veterans are all survivors."
Originally from Corpus Christi, Barrera made Belton home after a stint in the Army. She displays the Beetle every year and doesn't foresee that changing.
"I just like the town's moral character," she said.
It's something Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr., commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, bragged about as well.
"Belton and Central Texas contribute to a quality of life that in my opinion can't be matched anywhere in our nation. What's more is that each of these factors is the direct result of real hometown heroes," he said in a speech at the historic Bell County Courthouse prior to the parade. "In war and in peace … from summer to winter, they commit themselves to the public good and the nation prospers for it."