Memorial Day parade entertains Columbia audience; ceremony honors veterans

Monday, May 28, 2012 | 4:06 p.m. CDT; updated 5:18 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 25, 2012
A morning parade in downtown Columbia kicked off the day's Memorial Day observances.

COLUMBIA — A downtown parade means a boom in business for Bill Ramm.

Ramm sells hot dogs in the downtown area during the workweek and came out to vend at the Salute to Veterans Parade on Monday. 

"I normally sell about five pounds a day but I think I'm going to sell about 10 today," Ramm predicted during the parade.

Ramm had no shortage of potential customers — the parade route along Broadway was thick with spectators before the parade began at 9:55 a.m.

The SkyHawks, a Canadian parachute team, was supposed to kick off the processional, but its members were unable to jump into intersections along Broadway due to high winds. They walked in the parade instead.

In their place, the parade began with a police escort. It featured many national and local organizations, both civilian and military.

The crowd responded positively to the patriotic displays, applauding and whistling enthusiastically as the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the Veterans of Foreign Wars passed.  

For one spectator, the parade was an opportunity to express his dissatisfaction with the treatment of veterans. Navy veteran David Dollens, 70, held a sign reading "Get the Homeless Veterans off the News."

"I feel the same way about homeless veterans as I do about homeless women and children — it shouldn't be happening in this country," Dollens said.

Among the parade participants, brothers Quinn Pestle, 17, and Grant, 16, walked for their fifth year with Boy Scout Troop 4.  They said walking in the parade "is the right thing to do."

"Our grandpa was in the army," Quinn Pestle said. "It's a good way to remember him." 

The brothers took advantage of the shade beneath the awning of the parking garage at Eighth and Walnut streets to watch the Memorial Day Ceremony at the Boone County Courthouse after the parade.

The ceremony began with a speech from the master of ceremonies, retired Army Lt. Col. Eric Cunningham. He requested that the audience honor the servicemen and women who are currently serving and remember the lives of the fallen.

"We gave ours today, so that you could have yours tomorrow," Cunningham said.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Tery Donelson later oversaw the placement of memorial wreaths at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The wreaths can be viewed until 3 p.m. Monday.

To conclude the ceremony, the Columbia Community Band played military themes.

Columbia residents Bragg and Joyce Stanley have attended annual Memorial Day festivities for almost 20 years. Bragg Stanley stood out from the other red, white and blue at the ceremony, sporting a stars and stripes button-down shirt he said he wears every Memorial Day and Fourth of July.

"It's a way to say thank you to our veterans for their services and sacrifices," he said. 

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