Pleasanton's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6298, the American Legion Post 237 and the Maj. Gen. William F. Dean Chapter of the Association of the United States Army are hosting the 20th annual Tri-Valley Veterans Day parade starting at 1 p.m. Sunday on Main Street.
The parade, which is traditionally held ahead of the actual holiday so that veterans and civic leaders can represent Pleasanton in other celebrations on Nov. 11.
And what a parade it will be, with more than 100 marching, walking and motorized units filling Main Street from its start in front of the Veterans Memorial Building at 301 Main St. and continuing four blocks north to St. Mary's Street.
It's the largest observance in Northern California, featuring military and veteran color guards, marching bands, horses, jeeps, Humvees and other military vehicles. Marching along the way also will be Girl Scout and Boy Scout organizations, Scottish pipe and drum units, the Alameda County Sheriff's Posse, elected officials from Tri-Valley cities and veterans from Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Korea and even World War II.
This year's parade and post-parade ceremony in the Veterans Hall are dedicated to those who served during the Vietnam War era. It is among more than 7,000 events being conducted across the country to mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. Army Maj. (Retired) James A. Taylor, a Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, will be the parade grand marshal.
Taylor also will be the guest speaker at the post-parade ceremony, starting after the parade at about 2:15 p.m. with patriotic music played by the Pleasanton Community Concert Band under the direction of Bob Williams. The program will include a short film narrated by Sam Elliott. Then, Taylor will present commemorative pins to all Vietnam-era veterans who served from 1959 to 1975.
Then next Saturday, Nov. 12, a new Veterans Memorial will be dedicated at the city-owned Pioneer Cemetery. The $390,000 memorial -- featuring monoliths, flag poles, a large granite platform and a bronze sculpture of a kneeling soldier -- has been funded by local veterans organizations, a city cemetery fund and public donations. Again, the ceremony will be held a day after Veterans Day in deference to other celebrations planned on Nov. 11.
Some may remember that Nov. 11 used to be called Armistice Day, a federal holiday that was started to mark the anniversary of the end of World War I. Major hostilities of that war were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the armistice with Germany went into effect. Since 1954, the holiday name has been changed and its significance expanded to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in battle.