Oregon Air National Guard Col. Paul Fitzgerald recalled the words of former President George Washington while speaking to a crowd at the Veterans Day Parade in Vancouver on Saturday: “The willingness with which young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional with how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”
This sentiment, Fitzgerald continued, is what we acknowledge on Veterans Day.
Saturday marked the 29th annual Veterans Day Parade at Fort Vancouver, and it comes at a time when the nation is in the midst of evaluating how we treat our veterans.
“There are too many veterans who are homeless, and there is no excuse,” Dan Kelly said as he watched the parade, an event he attends every year. “We should take care of them. They took care of us.”
Ron Mullins, 66, of Vancouver served in the Vietnam War. He stood in the rain on Saturday, watching the parade. A couple of people thanked him for his service on Saturday, as his hat and sweatshirt made it evident he was a veteran.
“It’s nice to be honored,” he said.
Was it enough?
“It’s working on it,” he said of the parade and festivities. “It’s a step.”
There were more than a hundred different groups signed up to march in the parade — from Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops to the 1st Oregon Volunteer Infantry to the Camas High School Papermaker Marching Band. Local veterans also participated, and many elected public officials were present. The Fort Vancouver National Trust hosts the event.
And the Gold Star Families, a group nobody wants to be part of, marched in the parade, holding pictures of their relatives who were killed.
Jackie Gray, 18, of Battle Ground, held a picture of Army Pfc. Andrew Jon Shields, also of Battle Ground, who was 19 when he was killed by a roadside bomb in 2008 in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
And Richard Adams walked in the parade, carrying a picture of his son, Brian Adams, who was 21, and serving in the Marine Corps. when he died in 2009.
“He was the greatest son you could ever have,” said Adams, of Vancouver.
Usually, Brian Adams’ mother holds the sign with her son’s picture while walking in the parade, but this year she was ill and unable to do so.
Adams said he wanted to make sure his son’s picture was shown, adding he doesn’t want people to forget.
Susie Saladin, 49, of Lake Oswego, Ore., said she wasn’t prepared for how emotional it would be watching the family members walk past holding pictures of their relatives.
Pat Jollota, a former Vancouver City Councilwoman and a local historian, was honored as the grand marshal of the parade.
Before the parade started, Jollota spoke, mentioning Vancouver was the “most patriotic town” she’s ever been in.
“We will stand here in the rain and honor our veterans,” she said.
To which a few members of the crowd replied, “Amen.”