The dual theme of this year’s East Valley Veterans Parade is “Commemorate and Celebrate,” echoing the World War II saga “War and Remembrance.”
In commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day – the turning point of World War II – and marking the 100th anniversary of Veterans Day – established in 1919 as Armistice Day – the East Valley Veterans Parade pays tribute to one of the war’s most historical moments as well as the nation’s decision to set aside a special day remembering all who served this country during war and peace times.
“War and Remembrance” was novelist Herman Wouk’s sequel to “Winds of War” and both involved World War II’s impact on several fictitious families while it also portrayed some major moments leading up to and during the war.
On June 6, 1944, Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the go-ahead for the largest amphibious military operation in history.
Operation Overload, more commonly known as D-Day, began the Allied invasion of northern France. By daybreak, over 18,000 British and American parachutists were on the ground, with an additional 13,000 aircraft providing air cover and support.
At 6:30 a.m., American troops came ashore at Utah and Omaha beaches, while British and Canadian troops landed at Gold, Juno and Sword beaches.
By day’s end, 155,000 Allied troops successfully stormed Normandy’s beaches and pushed inland, opening a second front against Germany.
The heroism and bravery displayed by Allied troops changed the course of World War II.
On Nov. 11, 1918, Allied powers signed a ceasefire agreement with Germany at Rethondes, France, at 11 a.m. bringing the war, now known as World War I, to a close.
On Nov. 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day with these words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory.”
Between the world wars, Nov. 11 was observed as Armistice Day, but after World War II, it was recognized as a day of tribute to veterans of both wars.
In 1954, after veterans returned from both World War II and the Korean War, President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill rededicating Nov. 11 as Veterans Day, and encouraged Americans to commit themselves to the cause of peace and to honor America’s veterans for their courage, honor, patriotism and sacrifice.
The East Valley Veterans Parade has a storied past.
When the annual Mesa Veterans Parade fell victim to necessary budget cuts in 2006, local residents Gerry Walker and Frank “Gunny” Alger spoke out on behalf of the 40-year-old Mesa tradition.
“There will be a Veterans Day parade if it is only me marching down the street with Frank watching,” Walker declared.
The Marine Corps League Saguaro Chapter in Mesa took the lead and the Mesa Veterans Parade Association was formed.
In 2013, the all-volunteer organization changed its name to the East Valley Veterans Parade Association to reflect the participation of parade entrants and sponsors from most East Valley communities.
Donations to this nonprofit are tax-deductible.