Members from more than 65 units walked down K Street in Lincoln for the Veteran’s Day parade Nov. 7 including marching bands, floats and a nearly 20-foot inflatable eagle.
The parade, which was canceled last year due to COVID-19, returned this year for the third time.
Antonio Marino, parade commander, said he, the parade board and planning committee had a crazy time coordinating and accepting parade registrations. During September and October, they did everything from making the line up order to making sure announcers got the correct scripts.
“It brings the community together, it brings focus to what so many feel is so important,” Marino said.
After 28 years of being on active duty in the Army, Bruce Gubser, director of the American Legion Riders Chapter 3, of Lincoln, said this Veterans Day is especially important for him to thank Vietnam veterans.
“When they signed their name on the bottom line, they were signing a check that says, ‘I agree to give everything to my country, including my life,’” Gubser said.
He recalls a time when Vietnam veterans came home to be spat on or beat up, not to have parades thrown in their name.
Ray Paulson of Hickman looks back on his brother, David Paulson’s, back-to-back tours in Vietnam. After David Paulson served his first tour, he went to Australia for some “rest and recuperation.” Almost immediately after coming back to the states, he was sent back to Vietnam. In total, he spent nine years serving in the Marine Corps.
Paulson said while not all those who served in Vietnam were shot at, many, like his brother, suffered mentally because of their service in the controversial war.
“It’s important because they put their lives on the line for America,” Paulson said.
Both men belong to the American Legion, the oldest service organization of veterans in the United States. Across the state, there are about 20 chapters according to Gubser.
“We are just Legionnaires who like to ride motorcycles,” Gubser said.
Judy Callaway and Linda Buckley, of Lincoln, both married military men at a young age. Shortly after their marriages, Callaway and Buckley’s husbands enlisted for service.
Buckley said she knew when she married her husband that he would be joining the Air Force as a career.
“I thought I would just have to put up with it. If I wanted him, I had to take the Air Force,” Buckley said. “But it was a great life and we enjoyed it.”
Buckley’s husband spent 24 years in the military during the Vietnam war. The couple lived on base and overseas during his time in the service.
Callaway’s husband spent two years in the Army in Vietnam. Before her husband left for deployment, she got a job as a telephone operator. She went in for her interview on a Friday night without a ring on her finger. When she went back for her first day of work the next Monday, she was engaged. Her boss made her promise that she wouldn’t leave now that she was to be married to a military man. She kept her word and continued working for them while her husband was at war.
Buckley said that she appreciates the Veterans Day parade because it sheds a positive light on the armed forces.
“It’s good to see some positive things about veterans because my husband was in Vietnam,” Buckley said. “I don’t think he got spit on but they didn’t have parades or anything for them when they came home.”
Among the veterans represented in Sunday’s parade were the Sons of the American Revolution. This organization is for men who have direct blood relatives that fought in the Revolutionary War, what Tom Upton of Omaha described as, “the first veterans.”
Upton, the state officer for Sons of the American Revolution, spent time in the U.S. Air Force before the military became all volunteers.
“Since the military has become all volunteer, we need to heighten the awareness and the respect for those who are willing to make those sacrifices,” Upton said.
Chad Sherrets, member of Sons of the American Revolution of Omaha, said the organization aims to encourage patriotism and knowledge of the history of this country.
“We’re supporting the people that were in these far places or taken away from their families,” Sherrets said. “It’s all about those people. Men and women, we want them to know that they are appreciated.”
Jim Sly, retired master sergeant of the U.S. Air Force, of Omaha, said that Veterans Day is unique to him because it is different from Memorial Day or National Armed Forces Day. While Memorial Day celebrates those who have died, Sly said that Veterans Day is a celebration for everyone who has served, regardless of how long or in what capacity.
“By having a day like this, with the parade, it gives us a chance as a community to say thank you, whether you’ve served or not,” Sly said.