Saluting their Service: Thousands gather together to honor our brave Veterans during the largest Veterans’ Day Parade West of the Mississippi
The streets of Albany roared with the sound of motorcycles and the cheers of onlookers; floats hand-crafted drove smooth as they passed by, honoring those who have served.
Albany held its 65th annual Veteran’s Day Parade on Friday, Nov. 11, a tradition in Albany that started in 1951, has been carried on and now holds the title of “the biggest Veteran’s day parade west of the Mississippi.”
The parade began with the Albany police chief driving on Pacific Boulevard, off of Lyon Street, followed by almost 600 motorcycles. Members of the Patriot Guard Riders, and Murphy’s Barber Shop rode by wielding american flags. Following the two-wheeled motorcycles came their three-wheeled cousins, trikes. Participants made homemade trikes out of car and truck parts, metal, and wood.
“I served two years, I was drafted during the Vietnam War, and I served in Korea,” said Dale Edwards, U.S. Army veteran. “I’m proud I can still fit in my uniform after 48 and a half years!”
The Air National Guard marched in, dressed in their formal blues, and surprising to all, jets flew over as they marched, the roar deafening as it flew in close. The city and crowd vibrated as it shook the whole landscape.
A pause in the parade occurred. As the audience waited for the next floats, hosts from 106.3 Classic Rock decided to talk with Al Severson, Vice President of the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as thank sponsors for supporting the event for the Mid-Valley.
“Linn County is the most patriotic county in the nation!” Severson declared.
Oregon State Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps marched forward as the eager crowd was anxious to see. Following OSNROTC was the Veteran of the Year recipient, F. Parker, and a float dedicated to the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Oregon Chapter, travelling with a vintage yellow Barracuda leading the way.
Santiam Towing displayed one of their tow trucks with a lifted monster truck on top of the tow bed. It was covered in sponsor stickers and vehicle wrap, with a young boy sticking out of the window waving to the crowd.
The Distinguished Veterans of 2016 were escorted in classic or newer muscle cars, ranging from Chevrolets to Fords. Those honored were Charles Upton of the U.S. Army, Tom Owen of the U.S. Army, Larry Williams of the U.S. Navy, and SMG Shannon Compton of the Oregon National Guard.
Family of LCPL Tyler J. Troyer held a float for their late family member, presenting themselves as a Gold Star Family.
Commander Jim Willis, from the department of the Oregon American Legion, had a float honoring those who’ve served, and was followed by veterans Bill Elliott of the U.S. Navy, and Will Elliott, a Seabee.
Lebanon High School’s JROTC marched, presenting a moving demonstration by holding a photo of local veterans who have passed away in each hand, marching and putting the military portraits to the sky.
Al Irwin of the Korean War, James Carroll of World War Two, Paul Franklin of World War Two and Frank Endsley of World War Two drove in a brand new car, provided by a local dealership.
Many retirement and nursing homes participated in the parade as many of our larger war vets are aging. Homes such as Oregon Veterans Home, Stoneybrook, Prestige Senior Living, Mennonite Village, Brookdale, Cambridge Terrace, Serenity Hospice, Oaks of Lebanon, and Willamette Springs participated in the parade.
Newly re-elected senator Ron Wyden walked the parade and thanked veterans for their service, while thanking everyone for their vote. The Albany Trolley rode behind with Mayor Sharon Konopa and other elected officials of Albany.
The 234 Army band played as they marched, leading in the Oregon national Guard 82 Brigade, Oregon Air National Guard 41 Infantry Brigade, five types of military police tanks, National Guard equipment, the 102 Civil Support Team National Guard, adorned in gas masks and radioactive protective suits; followed by the Oregon Military Museum.
The South Albany band and cheer team played with many others such as Jefferson elementary, Clover Ridge and Timber Ridge School, Liberty Elementary, Memorial Middle School, Lebanon High School, McKay High School, Canby High School, Calapooia Middle School, North Albany Middle School, and West Albany High School.
“We are excited. Last year we were short on bands,” said Stuart Welsh, director of West Albany High’s band. “It’s really cool to see more here this year.”
LBCC’s veterans club displayed a float with a sign, in big letters, “LBCC Supports Our Veterans” with trade courses on the sides of the float.
The Linn County Sheriff mounted posse showed off their horse’s ability to march and trot; Search and Rescue presented their abilities in formality and professionalism, as they marched down the road.
Shore Patrol, a faction of the Coast Guard, displayed a jeep in light blue, and was followed by the 101st Airborn Division, McNary JROTC, which marched in their fatigues, and the BPOE Corvallis Elks had a float dedicated to veterans.
Albany Fire Department displayed their current trucks, and two generations of vintage fire trucks, functioning with lights and sounds blaring.
The parade ended with the Corvette Cascade Club, showing pristine Corvettes to the crowds of thousands, and a lead into the holidays, with a float from Christmas Storybook Land.
Story by Hannah Buffington