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Four Arizona Hall of Fame heroes to lead Veterans Day Parade as grand marshals

Courtesy photo<br>The four grand marshals for the Prescott Veterans Day Parade are James “Bill” Johnston, (pictured with Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services Director Ted Vogt)

Courtesy photo<br>The four grand marshals for the Prescott Veterans Day Parade are James “Bill” Johnston, (pictured with Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services Director Ted Vogt)

PRESCOTT - Four local veterans - spanning three wars of the 20th century - will headline the parade that will take place in downtown Prescott on Nov. 11.

World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War all will be represented among the grand marshals who will lead this year's Prescott Veterans Day Parade.

City Special Events Manager Becky Karcie announced this week that the grand marshals will include Nat Robbins, a World War II veteran born in 1921; James "Bill" Johnston, a Korean War veteran born in 1934; Alfonso Santillan Jr., a 66-year-old Vietnam War veteran; and Renée Ball, a Vietnam-era veteran born in 1947.

All four are inductees into the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame - an organization that honors veterans who served with distinction and have since made significant contributions to their communities.

For instance, U.S. Air Force veteran Ball has volunteered at the Prescott VA for more than 26 years, contributing more than 6,000 hours, while U.S. Marine Corps veteran Santillan has served as commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, as chaplain for the Disabled American Veterans, and established an outreach program for homeless veterans and their families.

Army veteran Robbins' volunteer efforts have included operation of the Disabled American Veterans Thrift Store, along with 2,000 hours of volunteering for the VA, while Navy veteran Johnston has volunteered 3,000 hours at the Prescott VA, and was director of the Knights of Columbus St. Joseph's Youth Camp for eight years.

Karcie said the choice of the grand marshals falls right in line with the parade's theme, "Heroes at home, we salute you."

The marshals will head a parade that will include several dozen total entries. "We already have 53 entries," Karcie said Tuesday, noting that the entries were still coming in. The parade will include a large array of floats, marching bands, veterans' organizations, and car and motorcycle entries.

For the first time, the parade will take to the streets of downtown Prescott - a move that organizers say should encourage more of the community to come out and honor its veterans.

While the parade previously took place at the VA Medical Center, VA and city officials say the venue likely served to limit the size and accessibility of the event.

"Our whole goal is to make it easier for everyone to participate," Karcie said.

Since this year's parade will be the first of its kind in downtown Prescott, Karcie could not estimate how many people might attend, but she was hopeful that the crowd would number in the thousands.

"We truly are asking people to come out and line the parade route," Karcie said. "This is their time to say thank-you."

VA Medical Center Director Donna Jacobs earlier noted that the downtown location would not only help to increase attendance, but should also raise the profile of the annual parade.

The VA plans to transport many of its nursing home patients to the downtown event, and Karcie said Channel 13 also plans to film the parade and show it to veterans who are unable to attend.

The parade will take place at 11 a.m., Nov. 11, and will feature a flyover by three planes at 11:11 a.m.

An opening ceremony is set for 10:30 a.m. on Union Street, at the intersection with Cortez. Among the speakers will be Prescott Mayor Marlin Kuykendall, Jacobs, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Chancellor Frank Ayers.

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @CindyBarks.