Some of them had noticeable limps, others moved along in wheelchairs, still others walked more briskly with high steps, but all of them marched proudly as many spectators saluted, waved and yelled “Thank you, thank you, thank you for serving our country.”
It was the ninth annual Veteran’s Parade Nov. 8, which started at the St. Cloud VA facility and ended with a coffee-hour social at Apollo High School. Although Veterans’ Day is, calendar-wise, Nov. 11, this parade was slated for three days early – on a Sunday – so more people could participate.
Veterans of all wars were honored in the ceremony.
As large American flags fluttered and flapped in a brisk wind, about two dozen veterans’ groups marched past the curbside spectators on the long, wide drive leading into the VA. Despite the wind, the weather was warm, brilliant with late-fall sunshine.
“My kids are here to see their grandpa in the parade,” said Kim Neubert of Clearwater.
At the curbside, she and her sons, Teigen and Jerrek, waved and cheered when they spotted Marvin Neubert marching in the parade. A Vietnam War veteran, he is a member of Sauk Rapids American Legion, Post 6992, the unit in which he marched. “We are very proud of him,” Kim said.
Clint Fladland, 94, St. Cloud, is one of a dwindling number of World War II veterans still alive and well. Fladland, accompanied to the event by daughter Vicki Hoien of Annandale, said he was proud and happy to be part of the Veterans’ Parade. Fladland was a U.S. Marine pilot during the war in the South Pacific and saw action in the war-battered islands of Guam, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
“Okinawa was the worst,” Fladland told the Newsleader. “The Japanese were everywhere on that island. In tunnels. Bunkers. Everywhere. And they would sneak up at night and cut the throats of American soldiers. Yup, that was the worst.”
Ray Schlichting of Watab Township, south of Rice, is a Korean War veteran. He served from 1953 to 1955 in the 11th Armored Division and later in the Third Army. After the war, he worked for many years as a plumber for construction companies in the St. Cloud area. Schlichting volunteered, as he did last year, to get the Apollo lunchroom ready for the social hour after the parade.
Among the political leaders who attended the parade and the social afterward were Reps. Tim O’Driscoll (R-Sartell), Tama Theis (R-St. Cloud), Jim Knoblach (R-St. Cloud) and St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, an Air Force veteran who also marched in the parade.
In the Apollo lunch room, coffee and treats were served to the veterans and their well-wishers as they gathered in small groups to carry on pleasant conversations.
Among the marching groups in the Veterans’ Parade were the St. Cloud MetroVets Color Guard, the Waite Park American Legion Post 254, the St. Cloud American Legion Post 76, WW II and Korean Combat Veterans, the St. Joseph American Legion Post 328, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 290, the Central Minnesota Chapter of American Ex-Prisoners of War, the Valhalla Detachment of the Marine Corps League, the St. Cloud VFW Post 4847, the St. Cloud VFW Post 428, the St. Cloud VFW Auxiliary Post 428, the Sauk Rapids VFW Post 428, the Sauk Rapids VFW Post 6992, the Sauk Rapids VFW Auxiliary Post 6992, the Clearwater American Legion Post 323, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Women in the Military, the Clearwater Legion Riders, St. Cloud Cub Scout Pack 21, Girl Scouts and the VA Police.