More than 200 entries with the theme “Veterans — Defending Our Freedom” will participate in the 62nd annual Albany Veterans Day Parade, that starts at 11 a.m. today

The parade will start at Seventh Ave. S.E. and proceed from Pacific Boulevard to Lyons Street to Second Avenue, to Ferry Street to Fifth Avenue.

Awards will be presented about 2 p.m. on the north steps of the Linn County Courthouse.

Some 30,000 to 40,000 spectators will line Albany streets to catch a glimpse of the largest Veterans Day parade west of the Mississippi River.

The event is planned and sponsored each year by the volunteer efforts of the Veterans Commemoration Association. Officers are: Patty Louisiana, president; Bill Clotere, first vice president; Eugene Horvath, treasurer; Marilyn Myers, secretary; Ric Olson, sergeant-at-arms; Joseph Novak, chaplain for life.

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Jim Willis, who recently retired after a long career as director of the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs, will be the parade grand marshal.

Willis is an Albany native and U.S. Air Force veteran.

He is currently vice president of the Oregon WWII Memorial Foundation, which is raising funds to construct a WWII memorial on the grounds of the State Capitol. Oregon is one of only six states without a WWII memorial, even though some 152,000 Oregonians served and 3,757 were killed during WWII.

An estimated 24,000 Oregon WWII veterans are still living.

Parade viewers will get to see a 33-foot, five-sided granite obelisk, which will be the centerpiece for the memorial, which is expected to be dedicated on June 6, 2014.

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Alex Paul is the Linn County reporter for the Democrat-Herald. He can be contacted at 541-812-6114 or alex.paul@lee.net.