By the 25th anniversary of the Veterans Parade at Fort Vancouver, spectators have come to expect a few things.
They expect to see flags waving, Cub, Boy and Girl scouts chanting and marching bands playing. They also expect cloudy skies and drizzling rain. And Saturday’s event delivered in all areas.
Hundreds of people zipped up their jackets, pulled on their hats and opened their umbrellas as they watched 120 parade entries march through the Fort Vancouver National Site on Saturday morning.
Rain drizzled from the gray skies throughout the morning, leaving spectators to search the grounds for shelter. Small crowds clustered beneath the colorful tree canopies serving as oversized umbrellas.
Despite the weather, Clark County residents showed up to support local soldiers and veterans, and celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
Vancouver resident and Army Vietnam veteran Jerry Parker stood beneath his umbrella, small American flags in each hand, and smiled as the parade participants marched by. For the last six years, Parker has been among the participants, marching with various veterans groups.
“I have never had the opportunity to observe, so I thought I would come out,” Parker said. “It’s too bad the weather never cooperates.”
Saturday’s parade began with a boom as shots fired from Howitzer cannons at the national site.
The red, white and blue from the lights of a Vancouver Police Department cruiser led the way. The Fort Vancouver Pipe Band followed the cruiser with the 1st Oregon Volunteer Infantry close behind.
The Volunteer Infantry served as the parade’s grand marshal. The military re-enactors portray volunteer soldiers who stayed at Fort Vancouver when the U.S. Army soldiers based there headed east to fight in the Civil War.
Clark County soldiers who died during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were also recognized during the event. The soldiers’ family members — called Gold Star Families — carried white banners with pictures memorializing their loved ones. Mothers, wives and fathers held the signs as they walked with smiles on their faces and hints of sadness in their eyes.
Washougal residents Scott and Christie Morris attended the parade to honor their nephew, U.S. Army Sgt. Bryce Howard, who died in Afghanistan four years ago. The couple has attended the parade nearly every year since Howard’s death to support Howard’s mother and wife, who walk in the parade.
“I feel bad that we never came out before to support other people,” Christie Morris said.
“It gets pretty real when it’s that close to home,” her husband added.
The Morrises had company at this year’s parade. They brought their three grandsons 8-year-old Ben, 6-year-old Noah and 3-year-old Micah.
The boys stood next to their grandparents, flags in hand. Noah waved his flag as the young scouts marched by. Micah tapped his foot and nodded his head to the beat of marching band drums. And Ben offered his expert opinion on the morning’s event.
“It’s great,” he said simply.