Tomorrow is Veterans Day, which means that downtown Albany will, once again, witness a grand spectacle.
There's no other way to describe the city's annual parade to honor veterans: The extravaganza will feature more than 100 entries and thousands of spectators will line downtown's streets to take it all in. Bands will play. Candy will be thrown. Politicians will march, smile and wave.
The weather, always chancy in the mid-valley at this time of year, should cooperate: Forecasters say any rain likely will taper off before the start of the parade, and the event is expected to proceed under cloudy skies, with temperatures in the 50s — all told, about the best we can expect from November.
This year's event appropriately focuses on the contributions made by female veterans; the grand marshals in Saturday's parade are women.
The raw numbers support the decision to shine the spotlight on female veterans: About 350,000 women served in the military during World War II, another 100,000 served in Korea and more than 11,000 during the Vietnam War. Today, more than 200,000 women serve in all branches of the military, including 74,000 in the Army, 53,000 in the Navy, 62,000 in the Air Force and 14,000 in the Marine Corps. Recognizing the contributions of these female veterans is a nice touch, if a little overdue, for this year's parade.
This year's grand marshals include Elaine Abraham, who served during World War II; Ida Stemple, who served in the naval hospital in San Diego, assisting injured service men returning home from Korea; Margaret (Margo) Coleman, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1952 to 1955 during the Korean War; and Kaitlyn Oare, who served in the Oregon Army National Guard from 2007 to 2015.
In addition, all Rosie the Riveters — the women who flocked by the millions into the workforce to fill the holes left by men who enlisted in the military during World War II — will be honored. Those women may not be veterans per se, but their contributions were essential to victory.
Albany's Veterans Day parade is billed as the third largest such parade in the nation and the largest west of the Mississippi River, and we don't doubt it. But communities across the United States will gather on Saturday for similar (if shorter) parades and other events to honor the contributions veterans have made.
Every one of those events will reach its end: The last band will play its final note of the day and the last float will pass by the last batch of cheering spectators. Workers will sweep up any unclaimed candy (there might not be much of that) and other assorted debris.
But our commitment to veterans does not end with the parade.
Linn County residents, thankfully, recognize that. The evidence is all around us: Consider, for example that this county reached into its own pockets to help pay for the construction of a new veterans retirement home in Lebanon. Today, that facility — the Edward C. Allworth Veterans' Home — is a smashing success, a model for other veterans' facilities.
Today, we also have an increasing sense of the issues that our veterans are grappling with, whether it be physical ailments or struggles with mental illness. We have a better sense of the price some of our veterans paid during their service. Some of those debts we never will be able to repay; in those cases, it is our duty to remember.
Tomorrow's parade, as gala and wonderful as it is, will only last a couple of hours. But the promises we made to our veterans, the men and women who set their lives aside to serve their county, need to last for a lifetime. (mm)