OGDEN — Hooper resident Gwen Haycock teared up as she spoke of several family members who are military veterans, and what that kind of commitment involves.
“It’s not just when they get deployed, it’s from the very beginning,” Haycock said. “These men and women turn their lives over to other people and say ‘make me what you want me to be and I’ll do what it is that you want me to do because I love my country and I love the people of my country,’ ”
Haycock had parked her canvas camp chair near the corner of 26th Street and Washington Boulevard last Saturday morning to watch this year’s Veterans Day Parade that started at 11:11 a.m. in remembrance of the World War I Armistice signed at that time on Nov. 11, 1918.
According to parade co-chairman Robert Porter, who is retired from the U.S. Coast Guard, this is their ninth year of putting on the event.
“It’s just our honor to do it, and it’s a lot of fun,” Porter said. “Some of us, we just like to walk amongst the heroes.”
Saturday’s parade featured 61 entries and about 1,600 people who marched in it, Porter said.
“We’ve got Vietnam veteran groups, disabled veterans, churches, Boy Scout troops, Red Cross, Coast Guard Auxiliary, Fleet Reserve Association, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Purple Heart organizations, high school marching bands, Reserve Officers Training Corps … we’re all here,” Porter said, naming off as many as he could remember on the fly. “It’s just a way for us to give back to the communities that support us.”
Salt Lake City resident Benjamin Horne and his son Asael Horne dressed in colonial military garb and marched with fellow members of the Utah Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.
“I have more than a dozen ancestors who fought in the Continental Army for George Washington,” Benjamin Horne said. “We’re marching today to honor those who were part of the original Revolutionary War.”
Asael Horne, 14, was named after Asael Smith, a distant relative who fought using very different weapons in that early war.
“I’m proud of that,” Asael Horne said of his namesake and roots.
Lt. Col. Jason Nierman has spent the last 16 years of his life in military service that took him “all over the place, including deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan plus a year in Korea.” He now serves as a professor of Military Science in Weber State University’s Army ROTC Department.
“It’s just a different lifestyle,” Nierman said. “At least for active duty folks, where they rarely spend more than two to three years in one place, so it’s hard to put down roots.”
For kids in school, the frequent relocation can be challenging, Nierman acknowledged. “So that’s probably the biggest sacrifice. It’s more on the families than anyone else.”
This year’s Ogden parade almost did not materialize when its main host, the VFW, voted earlier this year not to put it on. That announcement led other veterans groups and supporters to jump in and help make it happen.
And up until 2006, the parade was on hiatus for about 50 years.
Hooper resident Steve Thurgood, who served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1970, remembered several years when veterans of that war kept their service to themselves.
“For so long, we didn’t come out as veterans that much. We just let it go,” Thurgood said.
Thurgood and three other high school buddies enlisted in the same week, he recalled. He was 18.
“It was basically a legacy thing, where my grandfather and father both served in World War I and World War II, and all my uncles served. It was what you did,” he said.
After surviving his years spent in the Navy Seabees that were embedded with the 101st Airborne in Vietnam, Thurgood said he was able to go to college on the GI bill and all that led to his civilian career at Hill Air Force Base.
“I came out (today) to support others,” Thurgood said. “I’ve learned to enjoy working with and for my fellow veterans.”