Putting the veterans back into Veterans Day

By Dan Aznoff | Sep 15, 2017
Courtesy of: City of Mill Creek An honor guard marches down the parade route during the 2017 Memorial Day parade in Mill Creek. A pair of Army veterans are lobbying the city to make veterans’ contributions a more central part of Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day events.

Two Army veterans of the Korean War have joined forces they hope will bring back the true meaning of holidays to honor military veterans for residents of Mill Creek.

West Point graduate Didrik Voss has collaborated with Army veteran Chuck Wright to propose changes to the city-sponsored events every year that are staged for Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day.

“It’s important that young people in our community realize that Memorial Day is more sacred than just another excuse for a sale on mattresses,” Voss told The Beacon.

“The parades through town should be a tribute to those who served, and gave their lives, to defend our country – not a political rally for candidates in the next election.”

Wright believes that throwing candy to children by people riding in the parade sends the wrong message to young people who are not familiar with the sacrifices made by members of their own community.

Councilmember Vince Cavaleri disagreed with a smile, pointing out that throwing candy during a parade was a tradition that began by soldiers who rode in parades after World War II.

The veteran of the Army Reserve said the somber moments should be an important part of the Memorial Day ceremonies, but should not be the only memory young people take away from the annual observances.

“We should honor those who gave us peace and a safe place to call home,” he said. “But we should also celebrate the freedoms that members of the armed forces fought to defend.”

Marketing and Communications Director Joni Kirk said veterans have always played a key role in both Memorial Day and Veterans Day, as well as the Fourth of July festivities. She was stunned by a proposal from the two residents that veterans should play a vital role in the annual events.

During its first meeting of September, the City Council authorized City Manager Rebecca Polittozzo to apply for a grant from the Snohomish County Hotel/Motel Small Grant fund to be used to expand the Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day celebrations.

The city did hold an open meeting in August to gather input from residents to plan future parades and celebrations.  Fifteen concerned residents attended the initial meeting of the ad-hoc committee.

The meeting was chaired by Brian Davern, who heads up the city’s new tourism initiative. Davern said he hopes the committee will be able to meet monthly to finalize plans for the celebration.

Input at the meeting included suggestions that veterans from each war be honored separately, beginning with the dwindling number of World War II vets in Mill Creek. The participants also suggested displaying veteran-related artwork near the city’s Memorial as well as distributing poppies to young people in the crowd along with a card that explains the role the flower played for veterans returning from duty overseas.

The committee voted unanimously to find funds so names can be added to the dark column that pays tribute to residents of Mill Creek who have served in the armed forces.

“It’s important that we remember the contributions that residents of Mill Creek played in Korea and Vietnam,” Wright said. “But we cannot forget the young people who continue to volunteer to defend our country.”

The city’s third annual Veteran’s Day parade is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 11.

“The festivities are used to celebrate those who served,” Cavaleri said. “We should honor these brave men and women ... with a smile on our face.”

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