Everybody loves a Los Banos parade, especially if it honors veterans. That has been the sentiment of many local residents on the first Saturday of November for the past five years, and it should also be evident this year.
On Nov. 2 the sixth annual Veterans Parade will begin downtown at 11 a.m. The Saturday event will begin at the corner of Sixth and J Streets and end at the Veterans Building on E Street near the fairgrounds.
The local Veterans of Foreign War Post 2487 and American Legion Post 166 will together honor all members of the military, past and present. This year’s theme is “Salute to the Marines.”
Last year the parade honored the Army, the first branch of the military formed in America’s history. In previous years, the Los Banos parades paid tribute to veterans who served in different wars, including World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Desert Storm.
This year it’s the Marines’ turn to be honored. In future years the parade will honor the other branches of the military, in chronological order based on when they came into existence — the Navy, the Air Force and Coast Guard.
“The Los Banos Veterans want to make it completely clear,” said Patricia McCoy, this year’s parade chair, “that the parade is to honor all veterans from all the branches, but in keeping with this year’s theme we are especially inviting Marine veterans to participate and have encouraged the schools’ parade entries to keep with the Marines theme.”
This year’s parade will again have bands and student organizations from local high schools, junior highs and elementary schools. And the parade will continue the tradition of having a giant American flag carried by FFA students from both high schools.
The parade will include current and past members of all military branches and, weather permitting, will also feature a C-130 aircraft fly-over.
The Los Banos Veterans, which is a combination of the local VFW and American Legion posts, goes through hours and hours of work each year to prepare for and hold this parade to give the community an opportunity to honor local veterans.
The veterans also hope, according to McCoy, “to educate young people that freedom isn’t free. The men and women they see in this parade served their country so others could have the freedoms that they do today.”
Veterans who wish to participate in the parade but are unable to walk the route will be provided vehicles in which to ride. If weather permits, these veterans will ride in convertibles loaned for this parade.
There is still time to become a part of the parade. Go to losbanosveterans.org and click the tab that says “parade entry form,” fill it out online and submit. Interested persons should visit the website periodically to view an uploaded map of the parade route as well as photos after the parade.
Anyone who has questions can contact the organizaers through the website or call Patricia McCoy (209.587.5033) or Mike Hughes (209.704.5301).
Before the parade the community is also invited to a pancake breakfast sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the VFW Hall, 615 E St. Tickets, which are $8 each, can be obtained from Victoria Ferreira Allen (209.710.8265) or any other auxiliary member.
The Los Banos Veterans comprise one of the most active groups in the area. They provide military honors at funerals at the Los Banos Cemetery and the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in Santa Nella.
They also provide local scholarships, post American flags around town on holidays, and sponsor high school students who attend the yearly Boys State and Girls State conferences and support the Central Valley Honor Flights
The Veterans group meets monthly and has an official meeting of the local American Legion post and an official meeting of the local post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) back to back. The group encourages all veterans to come to a meeting and join the group.
I hope many veterans, especially those who served in the Marines, connect with website or directly with Patricia or Mike and participate in the parade. I also trust that persons who didn’t serve in the military will encourage veterans they know to be parade participants.
Having stood on downtown sidewalks in previous years and watched men and women who served their country in the military pass by — while students in bands play lively music — I can attest to the pride felt in honoring local veterans who sacrificed years of their lives to safeguard our country and our freedom.
On another note: The Los Banos campus of Merced College will hold a meet-and-greet for its new dean, Lonita Cordova, on Tuesday from 6 to 7 p.m. at the campus. Local residents are encouraged to attend the and say hello to the newest local educational leader.