Editorial: Creative thinking needed to keep Veterans Day parades going

  • In this 2015 file photo, veteran Richard L. Murchison attends the Veterans Day celebration at the Bridge Street School in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Published: 11/15/2018 4:01:57 PM

“It seems over the years Veterans Day has fallen apart,” lamented Daniel Downey, a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Army. No one observes the Veterans Day services, no one cares, he told the Gazette. “They don’t close nothing,” he said, referring to businesses that stay open on the federal holiday.

Downey said all this in 1983. He could have said the same thing today.

The Veterans Council of Northampton eschewed a Veterans Day parade this year, citing a lack of participation. Northampton has been holding a Veterans Day parade for as long as anyone can remember.

“There’s just no one coming out to see us,” Brad LeVay, the council’s president, told the Gazette (“Northampton halts Veterans Day parade this year,” Nov. 8). The number of veterans, many of whom are in their 70s and 80s, willing to march was also an issue.

“You gotta remember, most of these people are getting up there in age,” said Nicholas Grimaldi, the council’s secretary.

Veterans Day was originally observed as Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I in 1918 and honoring the millions who died in combat. After WWII, which saw “the largest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the nation’s history,” according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Congress replaced the word “armistice” with “veterans,” thus honoring American veterans of all wars.

The last American World War I combat veteran, Frank Buckles, died in 2011 at the age of 110, and 348 World War II veterans die every day nationwide. There are only 12,958 World War II veterans still living in Massachusetts, and that number shrinks daily, according to statistics from the National World War II Museum. As time marches on, younger veterans aren’t showing interest in ceremonies and parades.

“The younger veterans are not joining veterans organizations like they used to,” said Steven Connor, director of Central Hampshire Veterans’ Services.

It’s clear new solutions are needed if the tradition of a Veterans Day parade is to continue. LeVay said the Veterans Council is considering working with organizations in other Pioneer Valley towns to host a parade together.

It’s a fine idea — combining the effort of more veterans groups would lighten the burden of organizing, while hosting one grand event would consolidate attendance from more areas. The parade could rotate from town to town each year, allowing everyone to have a local event while also supporting veterans across the region.

“We hate to give up on this stuff,” LeVay said. “It’s history.”

It is history — important history. Veterans Day is more than just a day off; it’s a day to remember the sacrifices veterans made so we can live in peace. It’s a shame Northampton’s Veterans Day parade had to be canceled this year, but there’s hope that it could return, in some form, in the future.

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