Loading…
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Current Weather
Loading Current Weather....
HomeNewsLocal
Published: Sunday, 5/29/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Parade honoring vets draws 5,000 downtown

Officials estimate turnout is largest in 5 years

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Members of the Zenobia Shrine’s legion of honor ride in a Toledo-built Jeep during the parade that wound through streets of downtown. Members of the Zenobia Shrine’s legion of honor ride in a Toledo-built Jeep during the parade that wound through streets of downtown.
THE BLADE/LISA DUTTON Enlarge | Buy This Photo

George Saunders was born on the Fourth of July.

He’ll turn 79 this year. He intends to celebrate the same way he does every year, with fireworks commemorating his freedom.

Mr. Saunders, a Toledo resident, served as a seaman deck hand in the U.S. Navy from 1952 until he was honorably discharged in 1960.

He was at Toledo’s Memorial Day parade Saturday, sitting on the edge of a concrete planter near the intersection of Erie and Jackson streets, an American flag in his hand.

“This is beautiful,” he said of the parade. “It’s really something to see. For them to do this for the veterans, it’s beautiful.”

He was one of more than 5,000 people who showed up to pay tribute to military personnel, past and present. Police estimated the crowd was the largest at the parade in at least five years.

Eli Tomes, 11, of Boy Scout Troop 57 holds up a placard of thanks along the parade route. Eli Tomes, 11, of Boy Scout Troop 57 holds up a placard of thanks along the parade route.
THE BLADE/LISA DUTTON Enlarge | Buy This Photo
Mr. Saunders was drafted when he was 18. He never saw combat; he spent most of his time in the Mediterranean on a destroyer. But he still counts losses.

His best friend, Alonzo Brown, whom he grew up with in Wheeling, W.Va., was killed in Korea during his first week of battle. Mr. Brown was only 16.

“I’ll never forget him,” he said.

Mr. Saunders was stationed on the USS Perry. He said he was the first one to load a shell into the hopper. His ship once spent 28 days at sea without sight of land. Didn’t bother him, though.

Across the street on Jackson was Ray Simoni, a Vietnam veteran who spent eight years in the U.S. Air Force.

Mr. Simoni joined in 1960. His father served during World War II.

Mr. Simoni, 68, sat in an American flag folding chair, a walker in front of him, with two flags in the attached basket. Every time someone carrying an American flag passed, he stood to salute.

“We were on worldwide alert,” he said of his service. “In a moment you could be deployed.”

Mr. Simoni hasn’t missed a Memorial Day parade since he returned from Vietnam. But last year he wasn’t sure he’d be able to make it.

Staff Sgt. Ryan Goodrick carries his year-old daughter, Emma, as he joins other marchers in the parade in downtown Toledo. Staff Sgt. Ryan Goodrick carries his year-old daughter, Emma, as he joins other marchers in the parade in downtown Toledo.
THE BLADE/LISA DUTTON Enlarge | Buy This Photo
He found out he was dying of liver cancer.

“I wasn’t supposed to be here today,” he said quietly. “I never thought I’d need this stuff,” he added, smacking the sides of his walker.

Mr. Simoni won’t know how advanced the cancer is until July when he goes in for another MRI.

But at least for a few hours Saturday, that wasn’t what was important.

Another Vietnam veteran, Gene Czerniawski, 61, was at the parade with his son Geno.

Mr. Czerniawski, of Toledo, wore the same Army-issued jacket he was given during his five-month stint in the service.

On his 19th birthday, Mr. Czerniawski didn’t get a birthday cake, he got a pair of Army boots. In Vietnam, he was handed a rifle.

His brother was in the 101st Airborne Division and they had friends joining the military, which convinced him he should join too.

“They were our heroes,” he said as his eyes filled with tears, “even the guys who came home in body bags. It was your destiny to go.”

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com or 419-724-6054.

 

SEE MORE

Lost in War

Arlington Cemetery photo gallery

Community Events

Toledo Memorial Day parade

When nation called, family's boys responded

Fallen honored, recruits sworn in

Sylvania Twp. marker honors WWII veteran


National Memorials:

American Revolution: http://www.americanrevolutioncenter.org/

Civil War: http://www.nationalcwmemorial.org/

WW I: http://www.wwimemorial.org/

WW II: http://www.wwiimemorial.com/

Korean War: http://www.nps.gov/kwvm/

Vietnam War: http://www.thewall-usa.com/

Afghanistan & Iraq: http://www.freedommemorials.org/



Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. If a comment violates these standards or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report abuse. To post comments, you must be a Facebook member. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.






Poll