The City of Auburn, Washington holds an annual Veterans Day parade that is one of the largest in the United States.
Yesterday I had the privilege of attending this annual gala. It was fantastic to be with other people who, in spite of our strong opinions on whether or not American military personnel should fight in foreign conflicts, were there to thank our veterans for putting their lives on the line so we can be free.
The diversity of the parade participants reminded me what a great country we are. We are people of all colors and creeds bound together by a mutual love for the greatest nation in history.
The World War II vets were there– many riding in cars and vans but some of them walking, one even striding down the road with ease as if he were still 20 rather than 90. I love those guys– their enthusiasm got the crowd stirred up and our proud patriotic blood flowing. They truly are the greatest generation.
The Vietnam vets on their loud, macho motorbikes were there, fearlessly sporting patches and logos on their jackets and often flying POW-MIA flags. Someone told me the other day that 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam but the number of Vietnam vets who have committed suicide since then is well over 100,000. My parents’ generation is still paying a huge price for this war in blood.
Vietnamese, Native American, Laotian, African American, Scottish, Italian, Hispanic, and other groups of veterans participated as well as ROTC groups, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Veterans for Peace, DAR, SAR, various historical reenactors, a Captain America look-alike, and many vehicles and marching bands.
The bands played everything from John Philip Sousa to Lady Gaga and one group was even playing Thriller while dressed as zombies. Sultan High School’s performance of the James Bond theme song really stood out due to the band’s cohesiveness and their choreography. The bands came from all over, including Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. The size of the group from Grants Pass, Oregon was astounding.
Congressman Dave Reichert went jogging by in front of the car with his name on it. He moved so quickly I couldn’t get a picture. It cracked me up. Typical Dave, always the athlete. He’s popular around here because even if you disagree with his political views, he’s a hometown boy, a veteran, was a prominent member of the Green River Task Force, and a former King County Sheriff.
Here are some of the many pictures I took during the parade. Click on them to enlarge them– you won’t get the full effect of many of these without doing do. I hope they convey what a deep appreciation many of us Puget Sounders have of our veterans and their families.
A contingent of doughboys passes an appreciative crowd.
These boys and girls were having a blast waving from the cab and the back of the truck. Their inner youth really shone.
One of several groups of proud, two-wheeled veterans who were not only representing themselves, but those who never made it back.
This picture was an accident. I was trying to capture the dog and his patriotic outfit, but instead retained a moving image of a father teaching his son to love and respect his country.
Puyallup Valley VFW members. It wasn’t until I zoomed in on some of these photos that I caught the heartwarming reactions of people in the audience.
The Seattle chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart was represented, aka the Two Best Looking Guys in the Parade Ride in a Sexy, Manly Vehicle with a Large Gun. Sigh…
The classic cars were out in force. This sweet Bel Air had a raging growl that made the windows rattle. The driver was having way too much fun making people jump when he gunned the engine. But that’s us Americans. We like our cars fast and our music loud– or both.
The submarine veterans were there. They have a strong presence in our area and it’s always good to see their enthusiasm and equipment.
Does that sub actually work? I’d love to borrow it for a practical joke…
Our local boys from the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association were out with their birds. This group is a kick. They’re like the fun uncles you want at all the kids’ birthday parties.
This was a somber moment. The POW-MIA color guard was going by and it was a stark reminder of the numbers of Americans who were either prisoners of war or missing in action. Or still are.
It always disturbs me to think that even POWs and MIAs from World War II could still be alive in a foreign country. According to this site, 124, 079 Americans are listed as POWs and 30,314 as MIAs from World War II alone. Our government should do more to resolve these cases. No one should be left behind.
Cuimhnichibh air na daoine bho’n d’thainig sibh– remember the people who you come from. These fine kilted gents are from the Scottish-American Military Society. Alba gu bràth!
The Lao Veterans marched proudly, representing Lao-American and Hmong-American soldiers.
I think this group was from Chimacum High School (south of Port Townsend). They were flanked by a cast of swashbuckling pirates.
Veterans of the actual country of South Vietnam, our allies and our friends.
This man stood at attention as long as he was in my field of view. He’s a Vietnam vet who projected dignity and authority.
PBR veterans with a locally made boat– I wonder if it’s the same one that was restored in honor of fallen crew members featured in a recent Herald article.
Here comes the cavalry!
A very patriotic marching band. I didn’t realize until later that the man in the white uniform was yelling. “Hi mom!!!”????
The Buffalo Soliders of Seattle’s horse no va. The horse decided that the brutally long wait was simply enough and didn’t want to go forward. For this he took repeated flicks to the backside (many parade-goers protested)…
…until this man convinced the poor horse to go forward. And forward did the horse go in a moment of agitated spunkiness.
The Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution were present. Shout out to the Lakota Chapter of DAR from Auburn!
More Scottish pride. Oh yeah.
The F.O.E.– Fraternal Order of Eagles– was out in force to show their support for our troops. This jolly car was followed by a truck with a freakishly long trailer festooned in red, white, and blue that was overflowing with Eagles.
These were likely more Eagles.
The Sumner High School marching band appeared to be the very last entry in the parade. Their richly hued uniforms were a striking contrast to the minty fresh building they were waiting near before they stepped out onto Main Street. I talked to one girl’s grandparents who were waiting faithfully to cheer her on.
While hiking through town I was passed by these reenactors, who represented World War I and World War II. They joked that they would probably exchange costumes with each other for the next event.
Walking behind them was surreal. It was a fitting end to the parade as I was momentarily transported back to the wars of my grandparents and great-grandparents, a violent yet simpler time.
It occurred to me that with a few tweaks this picture could look startlingly vintage.
If you attend a future Veterans Day parade in Auburn, here are a few pointers:
-Bring the map the City of Auburn provides on their website.
-Arrive early. It took 35 minutes to find parking way out in a residential area and it was a long hike in.
-Bathrooms are terribly scarce. Most merchants have signs on their windows that their bathrooms are not public. Despite rumors of a row of Porta Potties somewhere along Main Street, the bathroom at Safeway and a lone Honey Bucket across from the Justice Center were the only bladder relief stations to be found. And that’s after chatting with city employees and the local cops.
-Dress for the weather. Thankfully there was little rain yesterday, but it was cold. Bring hats, gloves, boots, and jackets. And if you get too cold, yell louder, clap harder, and dance. Our veterans have earned this praise.
-The parade was 2 1/2 hours long. Whew! Bring chairs, hydration, snacks, and whatever else you fill your family’s backpacks with. Acknowledge that this could be an eternity for the littler kids.
-Don’t try to jump through department store windows. An adorable Papillon tried a stunt like this during the parade and failed.
Auburn has a number of other Veterans Day events going on this weekend as you can see on their website. A big thank you to their city’s staff and volunteers for organizing such a huge and moving event!
Ultimately, yesterday’s events were a poignant reminder of what Senator Zell Miller said: Never in the history of the world has any soldier sacrificed more of the freedom and liberty of total strangers than the American soldier. And our soldiers don’t just see freedom abroad, they preserve it for us here at home.
Viva America, baby, yeah!
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