Veterans parade aims to celebrate and honor our heroes

The Sixth Annual Eastern Shore Veterans Day Parade, “Service. Sacrifice. Salute.” will be held at 11 a.m. on Nov. 10 in downtown Laurel to celebrate and honor our veterans that have served our country, sacrificed their lives, and embody respect.

This year’s theme, “Service. Sacrifice. Salute.” provides three bold and empowering words describing our veterans’ devotion to our country. The parade, sponsored by American Legion Post 19, is designed to showcase that devotion with dignity and respect.

The 2018 grand marshal will be Dr. Mayer Katz, a recently retired vascular surgeon who served in the 22nd M.A.S.H (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) unit in Vietnam, and the 3rd Medical Battalion 3rd Marine Division in Vietnam.

In April 1968, Dr. Katz received The Soldier's Medal-- an award given to one serving in the Army who displayed heroism, involving personal danger and voluntary risk of life. In Dr. Katz’s situation, he saved a man’s life by extracting an activated M-79 grenade from a man’s body.

One group that people are excited to see is The United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, who is the official ceremonial unit and escort to the President of the United States. The group performs at several large stage events like NFL and NBA games, the Kentucky Derby, and at every Presidential Inaugural Parade.

Joining the parade for the first time this year is Delaware Governor John Carney. Other participants include the Baltimore City Police Mounted Unit, St. Andrew’s Legion Pipes and Drums from Richmond, Virginia, Cadets of Salisbury University, part of the University of Delaware Army ROTC, Laurel Marching Bulldogs, Boy Scout Troop 90, Nanticoke Rotary, Miss Delaware USA, Hogs &Heroes Delaware 1 Chapter, Legion Riders, D’Ann Danse Studios, National Desert Storm War Memorial, and many more.

An element new to this year’s parade is a festival that hosts food and art vendors among other exhibits. The festival will be located at Janosik Park, Front Street and Market Street. The festival will continue until 4 p.m.

Chris Shirey, parade chair, founder of the event, and native to Laurel, said the parade was created after noticing there really wasn’t anything that celebrated veterans in southern Delaware. Shirey proposed the idea of having a parade to John Shwed, the mayor of Laurel, and since then the event has continued to grow.

Shirey takes a lot of joy in planning this event, and the memories of the veterans that she gets to honor. She recalled a past parade when a nursing home brought a few of their World War II and Korean War Veterans to the parade.

“One of the men came up to me and said, ‘Ma’am, I want to thank you. Until this parade, I thought we had been forgotten,” said Shirey.

Kitt Parker, who has done the social media and advertisements for the event for the past five years, stressed the importance of an event like this. It supports the community of Laurel and the surrounding areas because it brings people together to share the stories of the veterans.

Parker said, “People don’t understand everything that’s going on. They see the veterans that go off to war-- they choose to serve their country, but then they get home and they have no support. Twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day. We have to get the word out.”

This year will have a new parade route due to bridge construction on Central Avenue. The route will turn right onto 4th Street (in front of the Laurel Public Library), then turn left onto Delaware Avenue and continue to Maryland Avenue. The Judges Stand will be in the parking lot next to the St. Phillips Church on the left about three blocks after the start of the parade.

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United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the official ceremonial unit and escort to the President of the United States. Submitted photo.

St. Andrew's Legion Pipes and Drums of Richmond, Virginia will be returning for the 2018 parade. Submitted photo.