Cheered on by flag-waving spectators and a U.S. senator shouting "looking good," more than 2,800 members of the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team marched through the streets of Trenton today to mark their return home after nine months of duty in Iraq.
The celebration began with flyovers by National Guard helicopters and a 19-gun cannon salute and was punctuated with music by high school marching bands from Ewing, Newark, Paterson and Trenton.
The parade started at the World War II Memorial across from the Statehouse, where Gov. Corzine and other officials gathered.
Among them was Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who stood on the curb, clapping and shouting, "looking good, looking good" as the units marched by in their combat camoflauge fatigues.
Spectator Barbara Thompson, of Lumberton, rode the River Line to watch the parade.
"I just want to show support," she said. "It's an historic occasion. We just want to be here to let them know people care about them."
Signs saying "Thank You" and "Welcome Home" dotted the route and inside the Sovereign Bank Arena, where a cermony honoring the troops and their families was held before a capacity crowd.
"It's really incredible; we're extremely proud," said Carolyn Amditis, whose son Joseph is a sergeant and who took his three younger brothers out of school to take part in the salute.
Spectators carrying small flags started lining the parade route about an hour before its start.
The New Jersey National Guard unit served in locations across Iraq, guarding detainees, providing convoy security and helping guide Iraq's transition to a republic.
Their deployment was the largest involving the state's National Guard since World War II. Each one of them came home safely.