We spent the morning of Tuesday, November 11th, at Cleveland City Hall for the Veterans Day Parade and the ceremonies afterward in the Rotunda. The parade started at 9:30am and it was a good day to have it because it wasn't too hot or too cold and the flags looked beautiful as they blew in the wind which was noticeable without being overwhelming. In short, it was a beautiful fall day in Cleveland.
We talked to representatives of several veterans' groups who told us that this was the first Veterans Day Parade in Cleveland in over forty years and the decision to have it was made only a month ago but, from our standpoint, it looked like everyone pulled together to produce a good parade. Among the groups/organizations that took part in it were the United States Coast Guard (who generously passed out sunglasses to the onlookers), the Cleveland Police Dept., the Sons of both the Union and the Confederacy, Collinwood High School Blue Steel Marching Band, the Wound Warrior Project, the Greater Cleveland Young Marines, Bagpipers (we love bagpipes) and, of course, several veterans groups.
The ceremony in the Rotunda started at 11am but we got there early and visited with many people connected with the parade and/or the ceremony. Among the people that we met there were who said hello to Ms. Margaret W. Wong were Mr. William H. Willoughby, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army (Ohio); Mr. Ronald A. Schwachenwald, President of the Joint Veterans Commission of Cuyahoga County; Mr. Rick DeChant, the Emcee, who is Executive Director of Veteran Programs and Services for Cuyahoga County; and Mr. Patrick M. McLaughlin, Parade Grand Marshall.
During the ceremonies in the Rotunda, Mayor Jackson presented a proclamation in honor of Veterans Day to Police Sgt. Stephen Merrifield who put the parade together. There were several speakers and all of then paid tribute to those who had served in the United States Armed Forces as well as those currently serving. Mr. McLaughlin said that these people inspire us all and are our true heroes because they play a large part in maintaining "the peace of nations" and help to bring "tranquility to the world".
In addition to Mayor Jackson, Mr. Armond Budish, who just won his electoral contest to be the next Cuyahoga County Executive, was there as well as Mr. William T. Anderson from the office of U.S. Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge and Mr. Matt Keyes from U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown's office. Mr. Keyes read a letter from U.S. Senator Brown.
There were several honorees and all of them accepted their accolades with genuine humility. Citizen Honoree Mr. Bruce L. Gilberson, who puts in a lot of hours volunteering on behalf of veterans, said that he just likes helping out and being with the people that he works with. Veteran Student Honoree Mr. Andre Dowdy from Cuyahoga Community College thanked his wife for her support and all veterans. Veteran Honoree Mr. Dale W. Dahlke also thanked his wife, Pat, and said that "without her I wouldn't be doing any of this stuff."
The guest speaker was Command Master Chief, Sean A. Sulshi from the U.S. Coast Guard Ninth District. Chief Sulshi spoke about the history of Veterans Day and how important veterans are to our community. He went on to tell his own story about how his grandfather was a serviceman stationed in Germany in World War II where he met Chief Sulshi's grandmother and married her but in 1946 he had to leave her behind temporarily when his unit was sent back to the United States even though she was pregnant with Chief Sulshi's mother.
Unfortunately, it wasn't until 1948 that Chief Sulshi's grandmother and mother were allowed to immigrate to the United States and be a united family. The reason for this was that as the daughter of an U.S. citizen the child/mother could have been sent here without too much trouble but Grandmother Sulshi, for herself, had to fill out a lot of paperwork and $800 had to be raised to purchase a bond to pay for Grandmother Sulshi to be sent back to Germany if there was no one there to greet her when she arrived in the United States. Fortunately, however, things were eventually worked out.
After telling his story, Chief Sulshi urged the veterans present to tell their stories to others so that people will appreciate the sacrifices that were made on their behalf.
During the ceremony, we sat with Ms. Zayra Ramos who is the photographer that we also sat with at the Julia De Burgos celebration about two weeks ago. Ms. Ramos introduced us to her friends from the Cleveland Police Dept. who were Officer Zina Martinez (who had met Ms. Wong as Asia Plaza several months ago) and Commander Harold Pretzel of Homeland Services. We learned that the Hispanic Police Association will be having an event in January, 2015 to raise money for scholarships for local children. We definitely plan to be there.
As for U.S. Senator Brown's letter, he wrote that he wanted to express his appreciation to all veterans for their contributions to their country and their community and thus are entitled to deep respect. He concluded by saying that he sent his best wishes for now and for years ahead.