The Wyoming Valley honored veterans and active military members by holding its annual Veterans Day Parade on Sunday.
Stretching from Market Street in Kingston and running to Public Square in Wilkes-Barre, families lined the streets as various groups, cars and floats passed by. Many groups handed out candy and American flags to onlookers, sharing smiles and waves as they made their way to the grandstand.
Although the 70-degree temperatures that hit the Wyoming Valley this past week were replaced by crisp, fall air, Sunday proved to be an excellent parade day, according to Mary Capwell of Moosic.
Capwell, who rode in the parade with the 300th Field Hospital of the U.S. Army Reserve originally located in Ashley, said she had high hopes for her first Veteran’s Day Parade.
“I hope we have a good show, it’s a beautiful day for a parade,” she said.
The parade is in its 69th year, with this year’s theme celebrating multiple historic anniversaries.
Sept. 2 marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Known as V-J Day or “Victory Over Japan Day,” the Japanese officially surrendered, signing the formal agreement with the United States and other allied countries. Germany surrendered a few months earlier in May 1945, shortly after Adolf Hitler’s alleged suicide.
It’s been 40 years since American troops pulled out of the Vietnam War, leaving South Vietnam after the communist-led North Vietnam took control of Saigon in April 1975.
2015 also marked the 25th anniversary of the Gulf War, when U.S Forces defended - and later fought - for Kuwait’s protection from Iraq in Desert Shield/Desert Storm under George H. W. Bush’s presidency in 1991.
And as for the history of the U.S. military itself – 2015 marks the 100th year since the implementation of the Navy Reserve in 1915.
Among the groups of battalions, schools and organizational groups in the parade were the American Legion Riders, a group of motorcycle enthusiasts who gathered together to ride in this year’s lineup.
Art Pimm, President of Post 672 in Dallas, said riding in the parade has been a long tradition.
“It’s been quite a few years, more than I can remember,” he said. “Every year it gets better and better. God Bless the veterans. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be here today.”
Members of Irem organizations also attended the event, including an oriental band whose members were dressed in costumes as they played on a moving float, as well as a string band. The Irem Shrine Motor Corps also preformed, dazzling onlookers as they turned and swerved across the street.
Moving to the beat
In between the floats and classic cars were a multitude of bands, performing patriotic songs and dancing. Among them were students from GAR, Coughlin and Wyoming Valley West High Schools.
Andy Kolojejchick, band director for the Wyoming Valley West Marching Spartans, said the school has been participating since the very beginnings of the annual parade.
“I believe (the school) has been involved since the parade originated,” he said, noting that the marching band has been playing in the annual event for the 22 years he’s been directing.
This year, the 72-member band and color guard preformed “God Bless America” as they crossed the Market Street Bridge, while the school’s cheerleading squads danced to the music in front.
As the two-hour parade continued on, many active-duty soldiers stopped to pay homage to veterans as well as our red, white and blues.
After completing their walk, a U.S. Army battalion began walking from Wilkes-Barre back over the Market Street Bridge to Kingston. As they were passing over, a group of local Boy Scout troops passed them, each carrying their own flag. Without any hesitation, each soldier stopped and stood as they saluted every American flag that passed them. Every. Single. One.
This is what Veteran’s Day is all about.
According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs, Veteran’s Day was voted to be an annual holiday in May 1938, making every 11th of November “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’,” originally honoring World War I veterans.
After the end of World War II in 1954, “Armistice” was changed to “Veterans” and the holiday was made to honor all those who served and sacrificed their lives for America.