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Published: Tuesday, 5/26/2009

5,000 gather in Maumee to pay tribute to members of the military

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Relaxing in a folding chair set up along Conant Street, Ray Kozina admitted that a view from the sidewalk of the passing vehicles in Maumee's Memorial Day parade was a new experience for him.

A member of the Maumee fire department and veteran of the Marine Corps, Mr. Kozina said he has ridden on the department's fire trucks in years past. But with his two young children curbside in front of him and his wife, Shelly, seated next to him, the Maumee man said this year's parade was about sharing the experience of honoring the nation's military members with his family.

Maumee officials estimated that about 5,000 spectators gathered along the city's more than one-mile parade route through downtown.

One of several parades in the area Monday, the annual event culminated in a memorial service during which members of the military were remembered for their service.

"[We're here] just to honor the veterans, the people who fought for us," Mr. Kozina said, moments before he and his family rose to their feet as the American flag was marched by.

Adrian McKinney of the Maumee High School flag corps marches along the route. Some 45 organizations took part in the parade. Adrian McKinney of the Maumee High School flag corps marches along the route. Some 45 organizations took part in the parade.
JETTA FRASER Enlarge

The parade was made up of entries from 45 organizations. The Maumee High School marching band, members of various veterans organizations, and local nonprofit groups - many tossing candy - slowly trekked by the numerous families who gathered along the route.

Among those in attendance were Melissa Graff and her 4-year-old son, Noah, of Toledo, who sat on the curb ready for the vibrant colors and sounds of the city's fire department trucks to rumble by. In his pocket was a bag, which was pulled out as the first of the candy began to fly.

"We come to every Maumee parade," Ms. Graff said, adding that she grew up in the city. "I'm sure as long as there's candy, he'll be willing to come."

William Moritz, 83, of Oregon sat at the corner of Conant and Broadway, just in front of Union Elementary School, where the parade concluded and a memorial service was held. A veteran of World War II who served overseas in Germany as an infantryman, Mr. Moritz said he and his family have attended the Maumee parade for years.

This year, his grandson Ryan Moritz returned to his hometown from college to participate in the Maumee Community Band, he said.

A recipient of both the Purple Heart and Silver Star, Mr. Moritz said he was drafted in 1944, just two months after graduation, and was sent to the line as a replacement during the Battle of the Bulge - the last major Nazi offensive against the Allies during the war.

Now a member of the American Legion's Dunberger Post 537 in Oregon, Mr. Moritz said he not only attends the Memorial Day commemorations, but he also is among those who ensure that veterans have a flag on their graves.

"We've been going to each grave at the graveyard," he said, adding that he helped place flags in Oregon. When reflecting on the crowds that gathered throughout Maumee yesterday, he said it was "pretty nice" to see all the young faces.

During a brief service attended by about 100 spectators, Maumee officials honored past and present members of the military, including the more than 35 Maumee residents who died in either World War I, World War II, the Korean War, or in Vietnam.

Mayor Tim Wagener made special note of Sylvania native Matthew Drake, a retired Army specialist 4 who was injured in Iraq nearly five years ago, and Larry Monroe, a Maumee veteran of World War II, who recently died.

"To Matthew and Larry and all our veterans, we honor your service," the mayor said. "You showed us all what it means to love America."

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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