Troops from Operation Iraqi Freedom marched proudly down the streets of Gulfport Friday.
They received the loudest ovation during the annual Fourth of July parade.
It was a display of American pride and patriotism.
Storm clouds threatened as a sea of red, white and blue paraded past Gulfport City Hall. Children clutched small flags. Families wore patriotic prints and praise America.
"We've celebrated the Fourth of July big time for such a long time. America is so wonderful. And we're happy to be free," said Gulfport resident, Betty Carter.
The Independence Day crowd saved the loudest cheers for the heroes of Iraqi Freedom. Grateful troops appreciate the support.
Bill Dwyer is a Gulfport Seabee.
"All the communities would send over boxes, packages with things we needed. We can't thank them enough," he said.
"Oh, it's great to be appreciated. All the support we got here from Gulfport was fantastic," said Seabee, Cliff Maurer.
Verna Walker brought her great grand sons to help salute the troops. Her family has quite the military connection.
"I have a daughter that's in the Army. I have a grandson in the Marines. And I have a granddaughter in the Navy. So we just come celebrate," Walker said.
War correspondent, Patrick Peterson, helped celebrate by riding on an amtrak. This parade salutes the military, reflects the patriotism of Americans and recognizes the significance of freedom.
Freedom allows such celebrating.
R.D. Westbrook served several decades in the United States Marine Corps.
"That's what all the branches of the service fight for. Where we can get out and celebrate something like this, and not have somebody else tell us what we've got to do," he said.
Those who enjoy such freedom said thank you to those who preserve and protect it.
The rain held off just long enough for the parade to finish Friday morning. Minutes after it ended, heavy rain drenched a salute the troops ceremony in Jones Park.