More than 1,000 people braved the wet stuff to witness Antioch’s salute to those who have served America. Several veterans groups, including the East County Veterans Association, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Patriot Sentinel Riders, headlined the parade. Chuck Kohler, a local Pearl Harbor veteran, served as the event’s Grand Marshal.
“When we talk about veterans, we need to think of what we can do to thank veterans,” said Antioch Mayor Jim Davis. “That’s the least we can do: e-mail them, send them a letter thanking them for what they’re doing for us and our country.”
The day was a period of reflection for veterans, who spoke of the high calling that motivated them to serve. Speakers also stressed the importance of simply thanking veterans whenever possible.
“Honor all of them – not just this day, but every day,” U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Steve McLaughlin told attendees. “Listen to what they have to say of their sacrifice and the sacrifice of their comrades. Honor them for putting their lives on the line for freedom.”
One of the major attractions that day marched not on the ground, but rumbled over the attendees’ heads – a fully restored Vietnam War era Huey helicopter EMU 309. The helicopter landed about an hour and a half before the parade on Second Street, giving residents an up-close-and-personal look at history. Kids were allowed to climb into the helicopter, and veterans were on hand to answer questions.
Antioch’s parade got off to a rousing start when the Huey helicopter roared over the parade route, eliciting cheers from the crowd.
The marching bands from Antioch, Deer Valley, Freedom and Liberty high schools added pomp to the procession. Several youth groups, including the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, participated in the Rivertown event.
Following the parade, attendees met up at Prospects High School to once again turn the spotlight on veterans. Retired U.S. Marines Lt. Col. David Cooper and Sen. Mark DeSaulnier shared their thoughts about what Veterans Day meant to them.
One of the main organizers of the event, Susan Davis, recited an emotional poem she penned, entitled “We Honor You Because …”
“We honor you because the conditions you’ve had to endure while on duty far from home must have made you feel like you were left alone,” Davis read. “We honor you because the freedoms we have today were born from the time that you gave away.”