Veterans parade gains recognition
Mirror Staff Reports
Armistice Day or Veterans Day has been marked in Leavenworth County with special events annually since 1919. But Veterans Day 2007 brings a new designation to the area.
For the first time, the Veterans Day National Committee has recognized the Leavenworth County Veterans Day Parade as an official Veterans Day regional site. The designation is awarded to communities for serving as a model "for other communities to follow in planning their own observances."
Thirty Veterans Days events across the country received the designation this year, including Leavenworth and Emporia in Kansas.
"We were very honored," said Diane Smith, secretary of the Leavenworth County parade committee. "We didn't even know we were being looked at to be selected."
Because of Leavenworth County's selection, the Department of Veterans Affairs is dispatching one of its top officials -- Robert J. Henke, the chief financial officer of the VA -- to Leavenworth to deliver the National Veterans Day Message.
Henke, assistant VA secretary for management, will speak at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, at American Legion Post 23, 418 Cherokee St., Leavenworth. The message is a kick-off to the Veterans Day Parade, Nov. 12.
Earlier this week, parade organizers had confirmed 219 entries in this year's parade -- which is billed as the oldest Veterans Day observance in the nation.
"We usually get calls right up to the morning of the parade," Smith said.
Grand marshal for this year's parade will be Lt. Col. Grant W. Gooch of the Iowa Air National Guard.
Gooch, a Leavenworth native, graduated from Leavenworth High School in 1986 and earned a degree in electrical engineering from Kansas University in 1991. His military career began at KU with the Air Force ROTC. A senior pilot with more than 2,100 hours logged in aircraft from the T-37 to F-16s, he currently is chief of wing safety for the 132nd Fighter Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard.
His military experience includes enforcement of the no-fly zone over Iraq prior to Saddam Hussein's removal from power and participating in airstrikes against al-Qaida targets in the Anbar province during the current Iraq war. He is scheduled again to deploy to Iraq in spring of 2008.
The parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 12, at Fourth and Cherokee streets in downtown Leavenworth. The parade will proceed east on Cherokee to Esplanade Street; north on Esplanade to Delaware; west to Seventh Street; south to Cherokee and east to its end at Fifth and Cherokee.
The parade will stop for taps at 11 a.m., and a formation of F-16 fighter jets will fly over the parade at 11:03 a.m.
Participants in this year's parade include "Our Returning Heroes," a float with service members who recently returned from areas of conflict, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., U.S. Reps. Nancy Boyda, D-Kan., and Ike Skelton, D-Mo., marching units from Fort Leavenworth, the Missouri National Guard, Kansas National Guard, numerous bands, honor guards, veterans organizations and others.
Tonganoxie's Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion plan to participate in the parade, as does the Basehor VFW. Tonganoxie High School's Marching Chieftains band also will participate.
Related events include a Veterans Breakfast sponsored by Leavenworth Rotary beginning at 7 a.m. at the Riverfront Community Center, 123 N. Esplanade St. The $6 cost will be waived for all disabled veterans.
After the parade, there will be a public display of military equipment at Haymarket Square, Seventh and Cherokee.
The parade is sponsored annually by veterans and fraternal organizations in Leavenworth, Lansing and the area.