Words & Photos: Auburn Veterans Day Parade 2014

By Gary Lott on November 10, 2014

Veterans Day is always officially observed on Nov. 11, the anniversary of the signing of the treaty that ended World War I in 1918. Originally called Armistice Day, it was renamed Veterans Day in 1954 to honor all American military veterans and their service.

On Saturday, the city of Auburn held its annual Veterans Day Parade. This year, the observance paid special tribute to the Military Order of the Purple Heart while also recognizing the 49 years that Auburn has honored veterans with its celebration and parade.

"It's very important for us to be here and show the community that we are both soldiers and citizens," said Sgt. 1st Class Duane Cruz, marketing manager for the Washington National Guard's Recruiting and Retention Battalion. "All of these guys who come out and dedicate their time are volunteers and eagerly do these events to show their own support, inform the public of what they do, and thank the community for all of their continued support."

Auburn has been designated by the Veterans Day National Committee and the U.S.  Department of Veterans Affairs as a regional site for celebrating Veterans Day. The parade has been hosted in Auburn since 1965 and is now one of the largest Veterans Day parades in the United States.

It focuses on honoring the country's veterans and active-duty military personnel, as well as honoring their military missions defending freedom around the world, such as World War I.

The 2014 Auburn Veterans Day Parade wasn't just about military vehicles traveling down a mile strip, however. The celebration was a daylong event and included an American Legion breakfast, static displays and seven exhibit showcases, a Remembrance Ceremony and the traditional Lighting of the Flame, the parade, a marching band competition, a veteran's luncheon and the Auburn VFW Post #1741 Open House. The day's celebrations concluded with Sweet Swing! A Tribute to Veterans, a one-of-a-kind show held in the Auburn Avenue Theater.

Before the actual parade started, a pancake breakfast was provided by American Legion Post #78, and a Remembrance Ceremony and Lighting of the Flame event took place at Veterans Memorial Park. 

Jim Sims of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) was the parade's grand marshal. This year's parade theme was the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

With more than 200 individual military units participating and more than 20,000 spectators, it is apparent that the event continues to grow in the Pacific Northwest. The general public even had an opportunity to walk down a street loaded with military vehicles and equipment and could even climb a rock wall courtesy of the Washington National Guard.

Later in the day, during the Auburn Noon Lions Club Luncheon, the Joint Services Support Directorate of the Washington National Guard received the 2014 Service Team Award from the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs for, "Outstanding Service to Veterans and their Families."

Along with the team award, four Distinguished Service Awards were given to individuals who excelled in supporting veterans, one of whom was Robin Baker, manager of the Joint Base Lewis-McChord's Army Career and Alumni Program.

"A lot of people don't really know what we do, so it's nice to share some information about what we do and the equipment we use," said Spec. Justin Near from the 110th Chemical Battalion at JBLM. The unit conducts site exploitation, which is when service members use detector equipment to determine what exactly is on any particular site.

"We have detector information here used to detect radiation and chemical warfare agents. That way we can keep ourselves and our sites safe," Near said. "I think it gives the public a sense of security to see us out here, and we're honored to assist."

LINK: More photos from the 49th Annual Auburn Veterans Day Parade