As the announcer for the Tri-Valley's 16th annual Veterans Day parade on Nov. 4, I had the easy job of joining my fellow veterans who put this event together each year by reading from a script that tells me who's passing by the reviewing stand. Well, almost easy. Sometimes, as happened last Sunday, the numbers are a bit askew, telling me to announce the 5-ton truck driven by Camp Parks soldiers when it's really the Daughters of the American Revolution in front of the stand. The P-Town Push Rods in their elegantly restored vintage autos, which I announced, were suddenly interrupted by the Ben Ali Pipes & Drums.
Color guards from the Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and local police and fire departments also kept coming, with all of us standing to salute the flag numerous times, As a long-time announcer at these parades, I've learned to wing it, sometimes leaning over the railing to ask the unidentified Cub Scouts passing by just where they're from. For help, I had Tracey Buescher of the Pleasanton Military Families at my side, who's also skilled at leafing through the pages of 110 parade entries to keep us a step ahead of all the marching units coming down Main Street.
Planning this annual parade, the largest Veterans Day parade in the Bay Area, starts in December when members of the American Legion's Pleasanton Post 237 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6298 assemble to critique the one just held and develop a theme for the next one. That parade will likely be Sunday, Nov. 3, some eight days before next year's Veterans Day.
The decision to hold the Pleasanton parade earlier than the actual holiday was made 16 years ago when there were numerous Veterans Day parades and festivities around the Bay. Military units that want to show off their color guards, soldiers, tanks and other equipment were committed to the larger parades in San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland. By moving the parade forward, Pleasanton got its share of the show, too. Today, it might not make a difference because ours is the only parade left, at least in the East Bay. Still, the tradition of an earlier start lives on.
In the beginning, the veterans groups rotated their parade throughout the Tri-Valley, but quickly found that Pleasanton's Main Street offers the best venue for a parade. One year, the parade was held in Livermore where city officials restricted the group to a two-block-long street, not even downtown. The organizers returned to Pleasanton the following year much to the delight of the City Council, which agreed to pick up the costs of keeping cars off the street for the annual parade.
A Sunday parade is also preferred, both by downtown merchants and the many participants who have school to attend during the week or jobs, including many of the VFW and American Legion members who help plan and handle the parade. The VFW's David Ham, co-chair of the annual event, is a manager at the Palo Alto Research Center. He spends hundreds of hours each year handling parade logistics and at meetings with his fellow veterans. They start early by notifying those in the parade each year when the next one is scheduled and inviting numerous groups to participate.
Joining the VFW and Legion in this effort often pays off for participants when they need support for their own events. The Foothill Marching Band learned this long ago when it started marching in the parade. The VFW, in turn, became a major sponsor of the band's fundraisers, including its popular crab feed. Politicians also like the parade, gaining visibility throughout the Tri-Valley. This year, all the mayors of Tri-Valley cities, except San Ramon, and elected county, regional and state officials joined in waving to the 5,000 onlookers assembled along Main Street to watch the parade.
Remember, though, that Veterans Day is actually being celebrated Nov. 11-12. Fly the flag.