The 17th annual Veterans Day Parade and Car Show, held on November 11 in downtown San Bernardino.
Sidewalks were lined with people, as a variety of classic cars, all waxed and shiny, drove alongside military jeeps on historic Route 66, ending in La Plaza Park with car engines and sirens, as loud as ever.
Various R.O.T.C organizations also participated in the parade. One group from Arroyo Valley High School, marched carrying American flags and wood rifles.
The Girl Scouts of America also participated in the parade, marching in uniform, with red, white, and blue butterfly wings on their backs. The leader of Troop 33, Carmal Row, along with one girl scout, handed out small American flags to people along the sidewalks.
President of San Bernardino’s First Cavalry Division Association and Veteran Robert E. Keith, only needed his mobility scooter to participate in the parade, driving down the middle of the road in a file with the other cars.
Keith, who started the division, says that its purpose is to bring first cavalry men together, to learn from each other, and pass that on to other people.
When asked about life after the military, Keith described it as “a booger”.
“In other words, it was hard to keep a job”, he said.
Another Veteran, Otis Gilbert, recalled Vietnam Veterans being spat on by fellow Americans, for participating in the war. “I didn’t even wear my uniform when I be in transitioning back into the United States, cause I wasn’t gonna go through that” says Mr. Gilbert.
After the parade, all classic and military vehicles filled La Plaza Park, in preparation for the ceremony honoring veterans.
Food tents were set up in the park, along with other organizations such as Red Cross and Cal-State San Bernardino’s Veteran’s Success Center.
William Louis, who works at the Veteran’s Success Center, says the center provides veterans with resources they qualify for. The center is also equipped with computer workstations and a silent room which helps veterans prepare for midterms and finals.
The ceremony began with performances by Voci Soli, a cappella group from San Bernardino Valley College. Throughout the day, they sang songs such as Star Spangled Banner, and God Bless America.
Master of Ceremony Mitch Cochran, made his opening remarks, joking that no one would trust a word he says, as he is part of a recruiting unit.
Support for veterans was strong, as family and friends cheered when the military division of veterans they know were named.
The ceremony was in part, made to honor Veterans Billy Mitchell, Daniel Gordillo, and Daniel Flores. Each of their bios was read on stage, but a Crape Myrtle tree was also planted in Flores’ honor.
Guest speakers included State Senators Connie Leyva and Mike Morrell, along with others such as Mayor of San Bernardino R. Carey Davis, who shared a personal story about his father, who was in a battle in France in 1944.
Towards the end of the ceremony, veterans were asked to go on stage and introduce themselves to the crowd. Veterans who fought as far back as World War Two, to the more recent Iraq War, participated on stage. Though some did go up to represent veterans who could not attend.
Daniel Flores’s wife, Angelina Flores, went on stage to represent her deceased husband, along with other members of her family. She said she is “happy to see the event has grown” since her and her passed husband had started it.
“We are here today because we want every veteran, and we want every family, that has supported a veteran to experience the feeling of gratitude, of appreciation,” said San Bernardino County Supervisor of the fifth district Josie Gonzales.