SIERRA VISTA — The 25th Annual Veterans Day Parade along a portion of Fry Boulevard Monday morning did not disappoint, prompting squeals of delight from the young, rounds of applause from the dozens upon dozens of flag-waving spectators in their folding chairs, and moments of solemn reflection from those who served.
“This city just outdoes itself every year,” said Sierra Vista resident Diane Erwin, whose husband is a Vietnam War veteran who served in the U.S. Navy. “It’s an amazing event. That’s what I like about this community. You go into Fry’s, you go into Walmart and people are always thanking him for his service. It’s very special.”
The parade, which lasted about an hour and 15 minutes, kicked off at Seventh Street and ended at Veterans Memorial Park, where a short ceremony followed. The guest speaker at the ceremony was Major Gen. Laura Potter, commander of the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence at Fort Huachuca. Sierra Vista Mayor Rick Mueller also spoke, offering a proclamation naming Nov. 11, 2019, as Veterans Day in the city. Mueller presented the proclamation to the parade’s grand marshal, Glenn Hohman, Department of Arizona Commander for the Disabled Veterans of America.
The parade opened with members of the local American Legion Riders on their motorcycles. The crowd applauded as the bikers rolled by. Many were accompanied by a passenger who held and waved a large American flag.
Other parade participants included the Buena High School Marching Colts, the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame, the Military Officers Association of America, the Air Force Association Cochise Chapter 107, Grand Marshal Glenn Hohman, Department of Arizona Commander for the Disabled American Veterans, the Women’s Army Corps Veterans’ Association, the Vietnam Veterans of America Sierra Vista Chapter, the Vietnam Veterans of America Cochise County Chapter, a 1969 Hughes OH-6A Cayuse Vietnam helicopter nicknamed the “Charlie Chopper,” and the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona, among others.
Tom Sickles, one of two sailors in the parade, served two tours in Vietnam when he served in the U.S. Navy. At 68, the Sierra Vista resident was looking dapper on Monday in the dark blue military uniform he wore in his youth.
“I enjoy it every year,” Sickles said about the festivities. “There are only two sailors in the parade. One is in the Color Guard, and the other one was me.”
Another Vietnam veteran was 70-year-old Tom Erwin, who also served in the U.S. Navy on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. Erwin cheered when a group of Marines ran out on the field during the ceremony and re-enacted the raising of the American flag on Mt. Suribachi in Iwo Jima.
“I loved it, it was great, especially for all the veterans,” Erwin said of the parade and ceremony that followed. “No matter where they served or what branch they served in, this was great.”
His friend Jesse Valentine, 78, who served in the U.S. Army and also fought in Vietnam, said the flag-raising re-enactment was one of the highlights of Monday’s Veterans Day lineup.
Erwin said events such as Monday’s parade make veterans feel appreciated.
“When we came home from Vietnam, nobody cared about us,” he said. “But now it’s all changed. I appreciate people thanking me for my service way back then.”
In her talk, Potter said the parade was “very, very inspiring” and a demonstration of community support.
“It was wonderful to see our great veterans from many of our previous conflicts and wars, retired service members, active duty and our future in the young men and women we saw in the parade today in our great junior ROTC detachments from the county,” the major general said. “The parade, to me, was symbolic of the great support that the men and women serving on Fort Huachuca feel each and every day from the city and the county. Whether that is the vendors, whether that is people we run into in stores or downtown, it’s just a wonderful place to live and serve.”