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Veterans Day Parade Honors War Heroes—Past and Present

Annual United Veterans Council of Santa Clara County Veterans Day parade attracts thousands to downtown San Jose despite cold, cloudy and rainy day.

Gray clouds, sparse rain and cold winds couldn't dampen patriotic spirits Friday morning during the 93rd annual Veterans Day parade in downtown San Jose.

Thousands gathered at Plaza de Cesar Chavez for a special opening ceremony presided by several representatives from the United Veterans Council of Santa Clara County (UVC), government officials and many war veterans and Armed Forces personnel in active duty.

Huddled under a white tent raised up on a stage to protect themselves from the intermittent light rain, they took part in the brief service, which included the singing of the National Anthem and the presentation of the Colors.

The event's keynote speaker and parade grand marshal was Brigadier General Gary Medvigy, with the 351st Civil Affairs Command Moffet Federal Air Field in Mountain View.

Medvigy thanked the public for participating in the festivities and reminded everyone that one percent of the American population "is participating in our nation's security."

"That's a huge sacrifice for families, the soldiers themselves ... We really appreciate that you appreciate us," he said, adding that the one percent enlisted today is different than those who served during WWII, Vietnam and other conflicts. "Today, that one percent in uniform, is bearing the burden of everyone. It's so important that we remember them."

Medvigy recalled the Vietnam War and how that conflict created a difficult time for the country. "People just didn't appreciate those in uniform," he said. "They blamed them for the politics of the era ... They never really got the welcome they deserved until recently."

Today's generation, however, recognizes that those serving in the military are subordinates to the nation's government. "We simply are selflessly serving our nation," he noted.

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren presented a resolution commending the UVC for its efforts every year to put on the parade and recognize the veterans. "All across the United States our fellow citizens have gathered today to thank those who stepped forward to serve their country," Lofgren said.

Like Medvigy, Lofgren reminded the public that those serving are not making foreign policy decisions for the national government. "They're making a moral decision to risk their lives for us. We owe them thanks and recognition and the services they need when they get back."

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President David Cortese was in attendance along with Assembly members Jim Beall and Paul Fong. All expressed gratitude for the veterans' sacrifices.

Ernest Glave, past president of the UVC, took time to acknowledge each veteran on the stage allowing them to introduce themselves. Some were WWII veterans, while others had served in the Korean War.

"I don't mind the liquid sunshine. Someone has to thank these guys for their selfless service," said one parade-goer, while holding an umbrella with one hand and waiving a small American flag with the other as the more than 100 parade entries made their way down eastward along Santa Clara Street.

A total of 104 entries were featured during the parade. They included marchers, floats, bands, ROTCs, military vehicles, dignitaries, Girl and Boy scouts among others.

Parade coordinator Ray Pulver wasn't sure how many people had attended the event, which he said normally attracts about 25,000. "We're the largest Veterans Day parade on the West Coast," he boasted. "It's an amazing event due to the number of participants, the diversity of the entries ... we have just about every war represented here today," he said.

Also noteworthy during the procession were volunteers who recreate the Civil and Revolutionary wars, said Pulver, who's coordinated the event for the past seven years and whose father was a veteran.

Livermore resident Sara Girotto said she drove all the way to San Jose to honor the veterans since she knows first-hand many have lost their lives while in service. "Regardless of how we feel about these conflicts, these guys just do the job, take orders and many have died defending our freedoms," she said.

Children lined up along Market Street were beaming with excitement when San Jose Sharks mascot S.J. Sharkie approached them while riding a bicycle. Then they received affectionate hugs from Big Bird.

"It's to honor everyone who's fought in a war," answered Ben Brigham, 10, when asked the purpose of the celebrations. "Lots died ... they died and never said goodbye to their families."

BG Robert E. Harpainter November 13, 2011 at 04:21 AM
I echo the comments from BG Medvigy. A great article. I am a WWII Navy veteran and an Army veteran of the Korean "Forgotten War". Sixty-five years ago, when being discharged from the Navy Camp Shoemaker (then located in Pleasanton where the Santa Rita Jail and Camp Parks now stand), a letter personally addressed to each sailor, written by that great president, Harry Truman, was handed to us as we were being honorably discharged. It read: "To you who have answered the call of your country and served in its Armed Forces to bring about the total defeat of the enemy, I extend the heartfelt thanks of a grateful Nation. As one of the Nation's finest, you undertook the most severe task one can be called upon to perform. Because you demonstrated the fortitude, resourcefulness and calm judgement necessary to carry out that task, we now look to you for leadership and example in further exalting our country in peace. /s/Harry Truman The White House." I don't think anyone could have written a better thank you letter than Truman, who was an Army veteran of WWI. I was one of the lucky one's to have received it, and I don't recall getting such a letter after the Korean War. I do believe that we are finally setting things straight in honoring our veterans, particularly Viet Nam veterans. The spirit of this San Jose Veterans Parade and the hordes of spectators on a rainy day, again said to me, thanks for answering the call. BG Bob Harpainter, Silicon Valley Chapter, AUSA
CPT Debbie J. Eddin November 16, 2011 at 12:58 AM
It's wonderful to see the community come out and support the military regardless of the weather. Veterans need to know that the community continue support them despite the politics. Thank you Santa Clara for your continual support.
Ray K. Ragan November 16, 2011 at 01:13 AM
Veterans' Day is one of those unique days that really is a celebration for everyone. It is a celebration of service to our nation, a celebration of freedom and those brave men and women that took that brave step to swear to protect and defend our great nation. It is an honor to serve this great nation and the American people.
Ann Krueger Spivack November 16, 2011 at 07:55 PM
I've also been thinking about our Viet Nam veterans and the soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan now. I'm wondering what else I can do (other than donate to Wounded Warriors) to show them I appreciate their service. I want to show my appreciation more than once a year. Any ideas? And to Brad Hayden: I agree with your comments but I think there are some veterans in the Occupy movement protesting all that money sent to bail out banks while our men and women overseas were on hold for their paychecks when Congress wasn't passing budget. That's absurd, that soldiers in Afghanistan are worrying about their families back home not receiving a paycheck. That part of the Occupy protest I wholeheartedly agree with. The people who serve our country -- then and now -- should be a priority.
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