A lone flag waved in the misty distance from the snow-capped peak of Sun Mountain, while down on C Street, the red, white and blue of the Stars and Stripes hung brightly in disciplined rows of salute as Virginia City's annual Veterans Day parade got under way Thursday.
While just over a week ago, the country expressed deep fissures and division at the ballot box, the true underlying unity of the nation reasserted itself as the men and women of the armed forces were honored and cheered by the crowd lining both sides of the street.
In front of the fabled Bucket of Blood Saloon, retired Storey County Sheriff Bob Del Carlo announced the marchers from the review stand with longtime parade coordinator Lorraine Du Fresne at his side.
Asked how long she's been working on getting this year's parade together, Du Fresne quipped, "Since yesterday."
"Welcome to Veterans Day, Virginia City-style," said Del Carlo.
It's a style that brings people like Barbara Borges and Kathi Thomson from Reno, where they could have just as easily stayed home and celebrated on Virginia Street.
Their fourth year celebrating the holiday in Virginia City, the two patriots said they enjoy Virginia City's unique vibe.
"It's the best parade," said Borges. "It's small and friendly."
Thomson's daughter, Denise Angst, is an U.S. Army nurse with the 47th Combat Support Hospital. She's already been to Iraq and might be going back in March.
Veterans from all wars were honored, even those on track to become veterans in the near future.
At 162-strong, the Highlander Junior ROTC color guard made its way down the parade route in proud, measured steps, as did the Carson High School color guard, the Navy Sea Cadets, Churchill County's Naval ROTC members, and the bagpipe brigade of the Sierra Highlanders.
Led by a star-covered Volkswagen Beetle waving American flags attached to a pair of pulled-up windshield wiper blades, Sierra Pacific's red-vested "Hot Shots" drill team twirled sections of yellow piping in synchronized movements.
Last year's Grand Marshall, heavily decorated Marine Corps Master Sergeant Bob Russell, has been marching in the parade for 11 years.
The hero earned six purple hearts and a bronze star among a chest full of medals.
Another decorated Marine, Ken Stanfield, remembers coming home from his three tours in Vietnam and being berated and scorned by anti-war protesters.
"We were told to get out of our uniforms, put on our civilian clothes, and get off base as soon as we could," he said.
A veteran of operations Eagle Pull and Eagle Thrust, Stanfield says these days he gets a lot of simple, heartfelt "thanks."
"This parade is one of the best-kept secrets in Nevada," he said, passing on a hearty "Welcome home!" to a fellow soldier.
"Before 9/11, (Veterans Day) really was becoming a forgotten holiday," he said.
Veterans Day originally was called "Armistice Day," marking the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918. In the 1950s, Congress changed the name to Veterans Day to recognize the veterans of all American wars.
Contact reporter Peter Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1215.