Retired Toledo police officer Anita Madison has been coming to city’s Memorial Day parade for two decades, but Saturday was her first time attending as a spectator, with her grandchildren by her side.
“It’s a treat for the grandkids,” Ms. Madison said. “It lets them understand what Memorial Day is all about — not just eating.”
Hundreds of spectators and participants gathered downtown to pay raucous tribute to fallen soldiers, waving miniature American flags and clutching umbrellas. Overcast skies threatened rain, but not a drop fell during the parade or on the more solemn memorial service that followed at Civic Center Mall.
Although the weather held some back, Police Chief George Kral said he was still happy with the turnout.
“Toledoans are very good at paying respect to those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.
A Rogers High School band member performs during the Memorial Day Parade.
PHOTO GALLERY: Memorial Day Parade
If it rained, it rained candy. Local military posts tossed handfuls of Tootsie Rolls and lollipops to children on the sidelines. Baton twirlers, flag bearers, brass players, and drummers from six local high schools processed past onlookers, pumping patriotic tunes. Clowns with Zenobia Shrine buzzed by on toy-like motorbikes, adding splashes of rainbow to the reds, whites, and blues on display.
Many attendees, like Ms. Madison, saw the parade as a treat and a teaching moment.
Rachel Kent comes to the parade every year with her family to instill a respect for the armed forces.
“We come to show appreciation for the veterans and create that environment for our children,” she said.
For those who wanted it, the teaching moment continued at the Civic Center Mall, where Maj. Gary Bentley, retired executive officer of the 100th Fighter Wing, presided over an hour-long service commemorating fallen soldiers with a focus on the Coast Guard — the branch of honor this year.
Major Bentley stressed the volunteer effort that made the city’s Memorial Day events possible, including the placement of more than 53,000 flags on veterans’ grave sites in the area. After his welcome address, Hannah Buck, 15, a musical theater major at the Toledo School for the Arts, sang the national anthem, and two fighter jets sped over the memorial grounds.
Onstage, six empty chairs bearing military helmets represented soldiers lost in each branch of the military. Veterans, public officials, and other locals participated in the ceremonial laying of the wreaths.
In a speech, Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz called on audience members to “lead noble lives” like the fallen veterans being honored.
Toledoan Greta Harris, who retired from the Navy in 1997, would have joined the women veterans who marched together in the parade if she hadn’t broken her ankle this past year. For her, the day was an opportunity to reflect on loss alongside fellow veterans.
“I always want to remember my fallen soldiers,” she said.
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