COLUMBIA — Crowds gathered with flags and patriotic spirits Monday for the 22nd annual Salute to Veterans Parade and Memorial Day Courthouse Ceremony, ending the week of events honoring veterans. Mary McCleary Posner, who started the Salute to Veterans events 22 years ago, called the day a "glorious success."
“It was the best it’s ever gone in 22 years, and I haven’t said that before,” Posner said.
Parachuters from the Screaming Eagles U.S. Army parachute demonstration team kicked off the parade, landing on four Broadway intersections.
“Memorial day is all about veterans and people who served in the armed forces,” said Sgt. Sam Chick, a member of the team who landed his parachute at the commencement of the parade. It was a great way to kick off the day's events, Chick said.
A military ceremony was held after the parade honoring veterans and current members of the armed forces in front of the Boone County Courthouse.
“Today, many of those fallen are very young,” said guest speaker Maj. Gen. Frank J. Grass during the ceremony. Grass took a moment to remember recently fallen Columbia soldiers Spc. Steven Fitzmorris and Pfc. Jason Fingar. Grass said he admired Columbia for honoring soldiers and veterans and taking care of families and friends left behind.
“I feel quite honored to be part of this,” Grass said in his speech. “Riding in the parade and seeing the faces of Columbia people makes it all worth it.”
Some of these faces included Margie and Mark Bramon of Columbia, who took their two-year-old son, Will to the parade and the ceremony. It was Will’s first Memorial Day parade and something that the family could enjoy together, Mark said.
Margie said the Memorial Day events were a way “to pay tribute, and also instill in Will a sense of patriotism.”
Peggy Endley of Columbia attended the parade with her husband and watched her grandson march with the Cub Scouts. She also has memories of attending high school during World War II and seeing two empty chairs at graduation for drafted classmates.
“We’ve always supported the military with everything that we do,” Endley said.
Col. Michel Latouche of the Canadian Forces rode in car 17 of the parade and was an honored guest at the ceremony. Latouche said he met Posner last year in Las Vegas and she persuaded him to be a part of the parade and ceremony in Columbia.
“I am very delighted and proud to be here,” Latouche said. He has served around the world including Uganda, Rwanda, Iraq and Afghanistan.
After 22 years, Posner is happy about the success of the Salute to Veterans parade and ceremony in Columbia. During the first year, it was only a parade and two WWII airplanes flying overhead, she said.
“Look what it is now.”