There was a palpable energy in the air Saturday morning as people of all ages gathered at the Fullerton Plaza for the 30th Annual Veterans Day Parade and Ceremony. Veterans, junior ROTC units, the Troy High School Warrior Band and onlookers filled the street, greeting each other and practicing for the parade.
The marching veterans gathered on one side of Wilshire Avenue. On the other, the Troy High School Color Guard hoisted flags to represent all of the U.S. states.
World War II veteran and Cal State Fullerton, class of ‘70 alumnus Joe Kolb was present, pushed in his wheelchair by his son through the parade.
Kolb said he thinks events like the Veterans Day Parade are important because “it keeps us united and joined together.”
As the processions led by the Fullerton Police Department began, the veterans and color guard were followed by the Troy High School Warrior Band and Guard as well as Junior ROTC units from Buena Park, La Habra, Fullerton and Sonora high schools. The Fullerton Fire Department closed the procession.
After leaving the Fullerton Plaza and heading west on Wilshire Avenue, the parade marched north on Harbor Boulevard before turning right onto Chapman Avenue.
Along the parade route, viewers in red and blue foam Statue of Liberty hats, clapped, cheered and took videos.
As the parade passed, onlookers followed to the Fullerton College Plaza where the ceremony took place, a change from the usual location of Hillcrest Park, which is currently under construction.
Civilians were greeted by boy and girl scouts handing out cups and bottles of water as they walked into the plaza.
The sun beat down on the backs of everyone present as the ceremony began. Master of ceremonies Ed Paul welcomed guests and recognized prisoners of war and those who went missing in action.
Kristen Romero sang the national anthem and a military medley as all stood and saluted the American flag.
Gregory T. Hinton, the chief executive officer of the 79th Theater Sustainment Command, gave a brief address recognizing those who have served in the armed forces and calling everyone to service, regardless of military involvement.
“You teach the young, you are in service. When you volunteer to clean up the parks in Fullerton, you are in service. When you respond to fires and other national catastrophes, you are a servant,” Hinton said. “You are all in service because you are doing good to someone other.”
Bob Rhein, a U.S. Navy veteran who served from 1970-74, marched in the parade carrying a photo of his father, Robert Edward Rhein, a Coast Guard veteran who served during World War II.
“When he died, I started carrying this picture of him so he could come with me,” Rhein said.
When the Coast Guard song “Semper Paratus” played, Rhein held the photo of his father high in the air.
As “Anchors Away,” the Navy song, rang out, a Navy veteran who had been sitting in a wheelchair rose to his feet. Immediately, someone sitting near him came and linked arms with the veteran.
The noise of gun shots shook the audience, reverberating off the walls during the gun salute by the Fullerton Police Department Honor Guard as the military bugle song “Taps” rang out through the courtyard on the trumpet.
At the end of the ceremony, Troy High School received the outstanding unit award.
“It’s cool to feel that you’re a part of something bigger than yourself,” said Anne Edwards, a Junior ROTC member at La Habra High School. “I really love honoring the veterans, and I feel this is one way that I can show support.”
Larry Brown is a U.S. Navy veteran originally from New York who was stationed on the USS Wabash.
Brown has been involved in the parade many times over the years and said, “It’s an opportunity to recognize my fellow men and women that serve in the military, to reflect on those we’ve lost and those we served with.”