Oak Harbor’s first Veterans Day parade was an unqualified success.
Mother Nature poured on the sunshine and hundreds of people lined Pioneer Way downtown to watch the procession, which honored all branches of the Armed Forces, police and firefighters.
Two EA-6B Prowlers from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 got the parade rolling with a flyover down Pioneer Way.
A Marine Corps color guard preceded the grand marshal, who was none other than Oak Harbor’s sole Battle of Midway survivor, Harry Ferrier. NAS Whidbey Island, Naval Hospital Oak Harbor, the Maj. Megan McClung Marine Corps League, Oak Harbor High School’s Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion also carried the colors to honor both veterans and active duty personnel.
NASWI commanding officer, Capt. Jay Johnston, walked alongside members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, who rode in classic cars provided by the Whidbey Cruisers, as did the Women of World War II. Much of the audience fell silent as active duty personnel and members of the VFW carried “fallen soldier” banners, each with a photo of an active duty military member from Washington state lost in the line of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Also present were members of various veteran organization motorcycle groups. The Legion Riders from American Legion Post 141 in Langley, Brothers in Arms and the VFW Riders from the Oak Harbor area cruised down the street, some sporting flags, all sporting patches denoting military service.
The day couldn’t have gone any better, as far as parade organizer Terry Lacey was concerned.
“I think it went outstanding,” he said. “Really my only worry was whether people would come out and watch it and that really made me feel good when I saw everyone there.”
Lacey estimates as many as 1,200 people came out to see the parade, proving, he said, how the Oak Harbor community feels about its veterans.
“This community really cares about its veterans,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t realize how much people really do care, but I think it was evident how much it cares by the turnout for the parade.”
Spectators enjoyed the sunshine but said they’d have come even if the weather wasn’t great.
“This was amazing. It needs to continue,” said Stephanie Sullivan of Oak Harbor, who is a Navy spouse. She watched the parade with her children.
“It was very patriotic and it was good for the kids to see the veterans and learn about their history,” she said.
“It was extremely powerful when the posters of the fallen soldiers went past,” said retired Navy Master Chief Rick Hannold. “I’ve seen them on their own, but when you put them all together, it’s really something.”
“It was heart-touching,” agreed Oak Harbor resident Mary Hewitt. “I think they should always have it, even in the rain.”
Hewitt can rest easy.
“We’ve already started planning for next year,” Lacey said.