Fresno honors our veterans

Dubbed the West Coast’s largest Veterans’ Day parade, Fresno, California, has hosted this event for 90 years. This historical and long-standing tradition was started in the city of Fresno by the American Legion, Fresno Post #4 in 1919 to honor the returning WWI soldiers and the parade has continued every year since.

The 2009 parade honored the U.S. Navy with Captain James R. Knapp, Commanding Officer from the Lemoore Naval Air Station in neighboring Lemoore, CA, serving as Grand Marshal. Honored guest and first-time parade participant, Hmong General Vang Pao, rode in a restored 1955 Ford Thunderbird. Fresno County is home to a large Hmong community, many of whom are former soldiers who served alongside U.S. troops during the Viet-Nam War and came to the U.S. as refugees.

Parade festivities began with opening ceremonies at the Fresno City Hall, giving thanks to all who have served, and are serving our country. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said, “There can be no freedom without sacrifice.”

The parade began after the playing of Taps at exactly 11:11 a.m., commemorating the end of WWI. Two U.S. Navy F-16 Falcons from the 144th Fighter Wing of Fresno did a flyover, to spectator’s delight.

Fresno law enforcement estimated about 15,000 spectators lined the entire parade route and, according to a spectator I talked to, every year there is a large showing for this parade.

Grand Marshal Knapp said, “This city, this valley, embraces the military like none I’ve ever seen.”

People from all over Fresno County and beyond turn out for this parade in order to show their support for our veterans past and present.
The three-hour-long parade hosted over 10,000 military veterans and other individuals who participated in the parade along with 26 marching bands, several past and present military vehicles as well as many veteran’s organizations and U.S. military units. The parade was also televised and was linked up through the Armed Forces Network to broadcast it to our men and women serving overseas and stateside.

All in all, it was another successful parade with no trouble and proper respect given to our veterans.

On a personal note, it was perhaps the largest Veterans’ Day parade I have ever attended and I was proud to see so much respect and attention given to the area’s veterans. What the future holds, only God knows, but I believe as long as there is a Veterans’ Day and veterans around to support it, Fresno will always honor them.