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This year marked the 100th anniversary of observing what became Veterans’ Day in America. It was also the 75th anniversary of a series of critical battles and campaigns that sealed the Third Reich’s fate. In June, the western Allies gathered to remember the Normandy invasion. On December 16, there was another major commemoration, although not with all national leaders, remembering the battle that finally broke the Germans, the Battle of the Bulge.
On December 16, 1944, Hitler hurled his last, best troops, those who had survived the Russian meat grinder and the battering, fighting retreat from Normandy since June 1944, back through a weak point in the Allied front. Taking advantage of bad weather, suppressing American air superiority, and employing superior knowledge of local terrain, armored columns thrust deep through the Allies’ lines. Yet, the Allies were not going to break catastrophically and the Wehrmacht lacked the operational and strategic supply support needed to fully exploit any tactical or operational success. Nevertheless, the tactical situation became so desperate that the white Army leaders who had lied through their teeth, after World War I, about black men’s ability to be their peers in the infantry now called forward volunteers out of the support troops, filling in gaping holes with platoons of African American soldiers assigned to formerly all-white companies. Four years later, President Truman rejected “expert” opinion and ordered the complete racial desegregation of the armed forces with Executive Order 9981.
We are in the middle of the festive season with holidays centered on thanksgiving and gift-giving. Sure, the daily news cycle is filled with the fuss and fury of partisan politics, after all, there is a presidential election year just around the corner. In the midst of all this, treat yourself to a few minutes of soldiers, veterans, planes, marching bands, pageant winners, and even dogs and ponies! The photographs and narrative give a first-hand account of the annual Veterans Day parade held in the eastern part of the Valley of the Sun. It is smaller than the Phoenix parade, but we like to think it a better, more military veteran-focused celebration.
The East Valley Veterans Day parade was a great success again this year. The crowd enjoyed an hour and a half of ground and air entries. The theme this year was “By the Numbers,” reflecting the centennial of what became Veterans Day, the 75th anniversary of D-Day at Normandy, and inviting other quantifiable reflections on veterans’ service. What follows is a brief, illustrated tour of the 2019 parade, hosted in the usual Mesa location.
The VFW Post 1760 float, following the parade theme “By the Numbers,” The post auxiliary designed a float illustrating American military service in wars since World War I. Post members operated the float and several historic wheeled armored vehicles, along with members of a local flat-track roller derby team, the Arizona Roller Dolls.
The Arizona State University Army ROTC Cadet Battalion, from the Tempe campus, marched in the East Valley parade for the first time. They were given pride of place, the first marching entry after the Mesa Police Department honor guard.
The Arizona National Guard was represented by two up armored HMMWVs from the 153rd Brigade Support Battalion, a new entry. Unfortunately, the Army Reserve was not represented this year.
The school bands played patriotic music this year, following a suggestion from the organizing EVVP association. Three American Heritage Girls troops were notable among youth groups in the parade for their patriotic songs interspersed with cheers for veterans. The Coast Guard was well represented again with a small band playing from one of the Coast Guard Auxiliary’s boats, trailered down the parade route. Why is the Coast Guard in Arizona? We have lakes, some quite deep.
The Commemorative Air Force, flying out of Falcon Field, provided two aerial entries, and Dillon Aero flew a Vietnam era outfitted Huey helicopter. A local television station, 3TV, improved coverage, coordinating their helicopter’s movement to capture the World War II basic trainer aircraft and the Huey helicopter. Unfortunately, the Phoenix-centered media company mixed the great East Valley aerial entry coverage in the midst of the Phoenix parade Facebook live stream video.
This year, as others, several Air Force Junior ROTC units marched together, bore banners for all fallen Arizona service members with available photographs.
Every year, a group of reenactors proudly represent the heritage and history of the Buffalo Soldiers in Arizona.
Young people, sponsored by local Navy and Marine Corps veterans, form the Sea Cadets and Young Marines. The Sea Cadets marched proudly in their white uniforms this year, representing the future connected to the past through service traditions.
Fittingly, civic leaders participated as well, with Mesa and Gilbert well represented and the U.S. congressman representing the area, Andy Biggs participating this year.
But wait, dogs and ponies were promised! Yes, indeed, dogs, ponies, western riders, and both Miss and Mrs. Arizona.
After all the festivities, it is fitting to remember the reason for the celebration, the gift we have been given: