A crowd estimated at well over 1,000 cheered marchers and truckloads of veterans and others Sunday at the 11th annual Tri-Valley Veterans Day Parade in downtown Pleasanton.
The parade was held a week ahead of Veterans Day, which is this Sunday, Nov. 11, since many might be out-of-town over the three-day holiday weekend. Because Nov. 11 is on Sunday, federal, state and local government offices, banks and many businesses will be closed Monday, Nov. 12.
Last Sunday's parade stretched the full length of Main Street as more than 60 units lined up to march and ride in this largest veterans parade in the Bay Area. The parade included color guards from the Pleasanton Police Department, Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department, the VFW and from Travis Air Force Base.
Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton) and his wife Mary waved to crowds as they were driven down Main Street. They were followed by Mayors Jennifer Hosterman of Pleasanton, Marshall Kamena of Livermore and H. Abram Wilson of San Ramon, with Pleasanton City Council members Cheryl Cook-Kallio, Cindy McGovern, Matt Sullivan and Jerry Thorne, and Town Councilwoman Karen Stepper representing Danville also in the parade.
This year's theme was a tribute to those serving in the Coast Guard, which VFW Post 6298 post commander David Ham, called "Guardians of the Sea."
"The coast guard has never been recognized in our parades," Ham said. "We thought it was way overdue that we recognize them. We try to choose something that speaks well for the community and I think that choosing the Coast Guard does that."
Coast Guard retired Rear Admiral Mary O'Donnell and Coast Guard Command Master Chief Lani Cale-Jones of MLC Pacific reviewed parade units from a stand in front of the Museum On Main, along with VFW District 14 Commander Gene Cota.
Serving as Grand Marshal of this year's parade was Rear Admiral Craig Bone, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District.
Highlighting the Coast Guard-led parade were two veterans from World War II: Elfie Larkin, 97, who was a radio operator in the Coast Guard from 1943-1945, and Barbara Eirls, who served as a Lieutenant Junior Grade n the Coast Guard from 1944-46.
As every year, the parade featured a number of military vehicles and former and current service members. Veterans now in the Veterans Hospital in Livermore walked or wheeled in their wheelchairs, being loudly cheered by spectators lined along Main street sidewalks.
Ending the parade on Main Street was a 25-foot Coast Guard Cutter from Vallejo, one of many WWII jeeps and other vehicles, including a Swiss troop carrier, that joined the festivities.
A special ceremony fokllowed the parade with a program at Veterans Plaza on Peters Avenue led by Joseph Stieber, commander of American Legion Post 237. Speakers included Admiral Bone, McNerney, Hosterman and Wilson.
Patriotic music was provided by the Pleasanton Community Cncert Bank with Bob Williams directing. Ward Belding, dressed as Uncle Sam, led the audience in singing the national anthem and "God Bless America."