Veteran's Day parade provides remembrance, celebration
More than 1,000 people waved flags at the Veterans Day parade and concert on the grounds of the Bob Stump Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Prescott.
Before the parade, the John Hafer Octet performed a concert near the flagpole in front of the medical center.
Ame Callahan, public affairs officer for the Veterans Administration, welcomed everyone and introduced each of the 50 parade entries.
"Veterans Day serves a very important purpose," said Susan Angell, director of the Northern Arizona Veterans Affairs Healthcare system. "It's the day, we recognize not just those who have given their lives in the service, but all those who have worn the uniform."
"This Veterans Day is especially poignant," Angell said. "We learned from the tragedy at Fort Hood last week how precious our soldiers and veterans are, and how quickly we can lose them. Let this Veterans Day be an eternal reminder to appreciate an honor our soldiers and veterans at every opportunity."
"The beauty of Veterans Day is that we take the time to remember and thank those who have defended us or stand ready to do so while they are still with us," Angell said. "Across America there are 25 million veterans. Their ranks include citizens from all walks of life."
"Today we honor veterans from the greatest generation to the latest generation," Angell said. "We must honor them with deeds and not just words."
Angell said the theme of this year's parade was "A Grateful Nation Salutes Women Veterans." Then she asked women veterans to stand so that people could honor their contributions. Three women veterans who served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, the U.S. Air Force in Desert Storm, and in the U.S. Army in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom grand marshaled the parade.
I don't think I could be honored more in my life, especially with the World War II veteran here," said Regina Benois, a U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom who was one of the grand marshals of the parade. "The Desert Storm veteran, I was in 6th grade when that happened and had no idea I would go into the military."
"I just got a job at the VA," Benois said. " I'm just going crazy that I could be honored with these wonderful soldiers."
"I hope my kids, and anyone younger, honor me as much one day, as they're honoring us today," Benois said.
U.S. representative Ann Kirkpatrick, representing Arizona's 1st Congressional district spoke before the parade as well.
"Early this year, there was a discussion that we should charge veterans' private insurance for their disability service connected care. I didn't think that was a good idea, and I joined with my colleagues in writing a letter to the president encouraging him to keep our promises to our veterans and we were successful in defeating that policy," Kirkpatrick said.
"I also stand before you with a deep sadness in my heart, because of the deaths within the last week at Fort Hood," Kirkpatrick said. "And last night at my home in Flagstaff, I watched the memorial service. I'm sure many of you watched that as well. And I'm sure many of you cried, because I did. It was a reminder to me of the tragedy that can strike our men and women in uniform at any time."
"I think it's very fitting that we remember the courageous action of a woman police officer who put an end to the shooting spree," Kirkpatrick said.
"I don't believe there's enough we can do for our service men and women and our veterans," Kirkpatrick said. "I have a sign over my desk that reads 'We must fight for our veterans with all our might, because they have already paid the price.' "
Then Kirkpatrick thanked all veterans for their service.
Callahan told the crowd that cadets from Embry Riddle who stood guard over the flag in front of the Veterans Medical Center for the past 24 hours raised the flag. Then John Stevens and Tom Coburn played Taps.
The parade began with the veterans from American Legion Post #6 color guard, which recently earned the title of No. 1 honor guard in the state, Callahan said. Next came the Bradshaw Mountain Marching Band playing "Stars and Stripes."
More marching bands from Prescott High School, the Central Arizona Young Marines, veterans on motorcycles, the grand marshals in classic cars, classic cars from The Prescott Antique Auto Clubs and Yavapai Classic cruiser, Rough Riders, the Arizona National Guard, the Scottish-American military, NAU Air Force ROTC, Mingus Mountains Shriners Misfits, and many different veterans groups including veterans of the Korean War, World War II, the Vietnam War, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Military Order of the Purple Heart #608 and Pearl Harbor survivors followed.
Many veterans attended the parade.
"We're known for being one of the largest turnouts for veterans in the state on Veterans Day," said Jim Johnston, a Korean War veteran. "This parade is always quite big."
Many of the groups marching in the parade were young people honoring veterans.
John Bostwick, an adult leader of the Central Arizona Young Marines, said he missed marching in the parade because one of the cadets split her lip just before the parade and required treatment at the hospital. The rest of the Central Arizona Young Marines did march in the parade and won first place in the youth division. Bostwick said the Young Marines are a drug intervention group sponsored by the Marine League.
"We use the Marine Corps as a model of self discipline, respect, honor, and team building," Bostwick said.
When the parade slowed down, a group of Boy Scouts from First Congregational Church sang "God Bless America" and "Grand Old Flag" during the wait.
Some VA patients in wheelchairs attended the parade with their aides and nurses by their side.
Nearby at the end of the parade, a couple held up signs saying "Thank you, Veterans!"
"Both of us come from military families," said Dawn Gifford.
"My father was an air force veteran in Korea, and my uncle was army in World War II," said Scott Gifford.
"We bring our signs to all parades," Dawn Gifford said. "We figure it's the least we can do."
Many families attended the parade with their children. Some even had a picnic on the grounds before they left.
Natalya Johnson, who attended the parade with her mom, said the Rough Riders were her favorite part of the parade.
The Rough Riders group at the parade honored Captain Bucky O'Neill who led Troop A as they left from Fort Whipple to fight in the Spanish American War, Callahan said.
Evan Sterling and Curtis Gorlick marched in the parade with the Boy Scouts. Sterling said the classic cars were his favorite. Gorlick liked the Shriners Misfits mini cars.
Gorlick said what he really enjoyed seeing the most were the Vietnam veterans since his grandpa earned two Purple Hearts in Vietnam.