By Timothy Guy
By Timothy Guy
Veterans Day was back in November, but honoring the U.S. armed forces veterans isn’t something that has to be delegated to just once a year.
This was the idea behind the “A Salute to Veterans” parade, now in its second year, on April 21. Riverside City College served as the staging area and start of the parade, which then stretched to the Riverside County Courthouse downtown.
The parade brought veterans from various Riverside County locations out, as well as veterans from San Diego county and even from as far as Arizona.
The “A Salute to Veterans” parade committee’s vision statement said that it wants “to establish an annual parade in the City of Riverside which will honor veterans of all ages and all eras” and make the parade be a throwback to the patriotic parades that happened decades ago.
“I’m just tickled to death that this is happening. It’s so important to let the kids know that freedom isn’t free… I really mean that,” Guenther Griebau, veteran and member of the Riverside National Cemetery Support Committee said.
The weather worried some of those in attendance, with the day before seeing a good amount of rain in the area, but as the 10 a.m. start time for the parade inched closer the clouds started to part a bit, letting the sun shine down on RCC and the parade.
“I thank the good lord for the weather; not too hot, not too cold… parade weather,” Griebau said.
The weather was not the only thing that had people looking to the sky.
At several points, while waiting for the parade to start, different military aircraft performed flyovers including four T-34 Dragon Flight planes, a C-53 plane and a Huey helicopter.
There was a big turnout of veterans from different eras and wars, including Iraq.
Josh McCoy, who was a specialist in the Army and served a year in Iraq was happy to participate.
“I’m coming from a veteran’s point of view, and I think it’s a real good thing to show our support and to have other people show their support to our veterans or soldiers period,” he said.
The parade procession was more than 100 with cars, jeeps and floats spotlighting various military groups such as the U.S. Coast Guard, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Marine Corps League, the American Legion and even Buford Johnson of the famous Tuskegee Airmen.
“We have over 118 groups… that have signed up. They are all proud folks being here,” said Tom Johnson from the Military Officers Association. “This is a great activity for Riverside and Riverside County.”
One float in particular, designed and decorated by the Riverside Elks Club and which had the words “Remember our Veterans” across the sides, carried a Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, Col. Lewis L. Millett.
Millett’s son Lee, who was also the sculptor of the Vietnam Veteran National Prisoners of War/Missing In Action Memorial was happy with the event.
“I think it’s great. Everyone comes out to celebrate their service,” he said. “The floats here are very nice.”
The Elks’ float also showcased two survivors of Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, Clarance Minor and Lou Roffman. Minor was echoed Millett’s views with the event, as well as the turnout.
“I am impressed with the people that showed up today, it shows their respect,” he said.
One memorable moment in history was reenacted, in more ways than one.
On Aug. 14, 1945 there was a parade to celebrate V-J Day or “Victory over Japan Day” and Life magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt snapped a shot of a soldier kissing a nurse in the middle of Times Square.
That nurse, Edith Cullen Shain, was in attendance to ride in a military jeep following two people reenacting the famous kiss.
But as Shain entered the jeep a veteran came up and the two shared a kiss, providing a true reenactment that had the people assembled cheering.
A good sized crowd had gathered down Magnolia Avenue smiling and waving to the parade participants. As the veterans and other participants ventured past there were standing ovations and people shouting “thank you!”
Watching the parade go by and seeing a sea of camouflage and American flags with the Lee Greenwood song “God Bless the USA” playing how could one not feel a little proud.
“I feel patriotic toward the country,” Denise Peters said. “This country took me in, I’m an immigrant, and I just love the United States of America.”
View more photos of the parade here