Detroit Veterans Day Parade gaining strength

10th annual parade set for Nov. 7 on Jefferson, from Chene to Hart Plaza

By: Brian Louwers | C&G Newspapers | Published October 30, 2015

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DETROIT — Huge crowds routinely turn out in the chilly November air to cheer colorful floats, marching bands and enormous balloons that line Woodward Avenue for America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit.

The spectator turnout is nowhere near as robust when thousands of veterans, their family members, friends and supporters parade down Jefferson Avenue on the Saturday before Veterans Day.

“It’s a parade of veterans, by veterans and for veterans,” said John Williams, a trustee for the Metropolitan Detroit Veterans Coalition, the organization that sponsors the parade and puts it together. “We just keep shooting for the day when we’ve got 10,000 veterans (in the parade).”

This year, the 10th annual Detroit Veterans Day Parade will kick off at 10 a.m. Nov. 7 on Jefferson at Chene Street. The parade of cars, motorcycles, towed floats and boats, marching bands and veterans will then head west toward Hart Plaza, where veterans will gather for a ceremony at noon.

Some of those who walk or ride in the parade served during peacetime. Others fought abroad during World War II, Korea and the Vietnam War, or served in more recent combat action in Iraq or Afghanistan.

All veterans and their family members are welcome to take part in the parade, which recognizes the sacrifices made by those who serve.

The parade was brought back to Detroit in 2006 after a long hiatus.

Dick Chatman, recording secretary for the Metropolitan Detroit Veterans Coalition, said the parade was reborn with about 50 participants. It grew to about 300 in 2007. This year, they expect to have about 3,000 veterans involved.

“I remember when I was growing up. I’ve lived in Detroit all my life. I remember my father, who was a World War II veteran, taking me to a Veterans Day parade,” Chatman said. “But when I grew up, I never saw a Veterans Day parade. I didn’t know if it was something I imagined in my childhood.

“The bottom line is, there are 60,000 veterans living in the city of Detroit. The idea was, let’s start a Veterans Day parade and folks can keep it going, and kids can have a childhood memory like me.”

Chatman said this year’s parade will include groups of veterans from various organizations, high school bands, 1,200 junior ROTC cadets and a “Vet Fest” in Hart Plaza, where supporters can interact with veterans after the parade.

Organizers said supporters are also certainly welcome to line the parade route.

For more information about the 10th annual Detroit Veterans Day Parade, visit www.detroitveteransdayparade.org.

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