Originally Published: November 11, 2011 10:02 p.m.
Vietnam War veteran Tom Armstrong, who served in the Coast Guard for 30 years, said he attended the Veterans Day parade Friday at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to show his support for fellow veterans.
"We're here to support the generation before us, the one serving right now, and the ones in the future," Armstrong said.
Armstrong was among the more than 1,000 people at the parade to honor the men and women who have served in our armed forces.
"This seemed like the largest turnout ever," said Ame Callahan, spokeswoman for the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System. "We couldn't have done it without all the help from Embry-Riddle, especially my counterpart Bill Thompson."
Among the people at the parade was World War II veteran Ben Waldo, who flew a B-24 with the Army Air Corps during 45 missions in the Pacific, and shared his story with other parade-goers about how he and other pilots flew missions to take back U.S air bases the Japanese had overtaken.
The American Legion Post 6 Honor Guard kicked off the parade, followed by Embry-Riddle's Army ROTC, the Korean War Veterans Association, the Horses with H.E.A.R.T. float, the Vets Center mobile unit, the Pride of Prescott Marching Band, and many other entries.
John Fairbank, who served with the U.S. Marine Corps during Vietnam, and his wife Ricki said they've always been patriotic and said they came to the parade to show support for veterans.
"Everyone should do it," Fairbank said.
Brent Bombardieri, 7, said he was there to support veterans like his uncle in the Air Force, who flies a C-130H military transport.
"Out of our student body of 1,700 students, we have 260 veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars," said Dr. Frank Ayers, executive vice president and chief academic officer for Embry-Riddle's Prescott campus, who served 27 years in the Air Force. "We are very privileged to have time with them, we're very proud of their service, and they add so much to our community."
The crowd applauded when Ayers asked those veterans to hold up their hands.
Among them was Terry Willis, president of Embry-Riddle's student veteran organization and the Grand Marshal of the parade. Willis served in the Army for 11 1/2 years, was deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2004 to 2005, earned the Purple Heart, and now works closely with the VA to make sure that returning veterans get registered with the VA when they get back for services they've earned, said Jessica Schiefer with the Northern Arizona Veterans Affairs Health Care System.
"For us, every day is Veterans Day," said Donna Jacobs, medical center director of the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System. "Veterans served to preserve our democracy and provide a safe and secure future for generations of Americans."
Jacobs explained that Nov. 11 was originally called Armistice Day, because it was on this day in 1918 that the first World War came to an end and the armistice was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year.
Jacobs said that Veterans Day is also her birthday.
"I think it's fitting and appropriate since I serve veterans," said Jacobs, recalling that as a child she was so excited there were parades on her birthday.
Dick Chandler, who served in the U.S. Navy on the USS Hornet during the Korean War, said he and his wife Marge were there to see their granddaughter Amanda Glassford, a senior, perform with the Pride of Prescott Marching Band.
Darcy Razo said she was looking forward to seeing her daughter Erin Razo march with the Girl Scouts.
"One sat by us at the rodeo," their mom Ginger Bentley said.
The horses were the main draw for June Williams, 11, and Megan Stoddard, 11.
Senior Webelo Scout Toby Buettner, 11, said marching in the parade was fun, and that the red poppies his group, the Boy Scouts and the Cub Scouts wore to honor veterans were inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields." The poem, written by World War I Colonel John McCrae, a surgeon with Canada's First Brigade Artillery, described the bright red poppies blooming among the rows of white crosses marking soldiers' graves on the Flanders battlefields in Belgium.
McCrae's poem inspired Anna E. Guerin of France and Moina Michael in the United States to sell artificial poppies to benefit orphans and others left destitute by the war.
Since then, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars have distributed poppies in remembrance of veterans on Memorial Day and on Veterans Day.