Topeka Gold Star Wife Has High Hopes for 2nd Annual Veterans Paradeby Bruce Harrison on October 29, 2014 at 3:29 pm After Melissa Jarboe’s husband was critically injured by a sniper’s bullet in Afghanistan, she promised him they would make it home to Topeka from Johns Hopkins Hospital and march in the city’s veterans parade. But, to her surprise, no parade existed.
“I assumed that Topeka had a parade,” said Jarboe. “So when I found out they didn’t, I mean, it was kind of a shock factor because we’re the capital city of Kansas.”
Her husband, SSG Jamie Jarboe, made it home but never got to march, dying from his injury in March 2012. But Melissa’s dream to march for Jamie did not die, so she founded the Topeka Veterans Parade.
The parade’s inaugural run was last November, and Jarboe says there were plenty of people who told her it wouldn’t happen.
“You’re not going to have a parade here…nobody is going to attend,” she said, echoing her doubters.
But more than 10,000 people turned out, lining Kansas Ave. downtown. Jarboe said she learned that if you “lead a path, people will follow.”
She continues to lead, and on Nov. 8, Jarboe hopes for a turnout of 30,000 people.
Earlier this month, the parade committee, chaired by Topeka Police Lt. Joe Perry, announced retired Brigadier General Deborah Rose as the parade’s grand marshal. Rose spent 28 years with the Kansas National Guard, and was the first woman to be promoted to colonel, then brigadier general in the guard.
The parade is part of the Military Veteran Project, a nonprofit founded and run by Jarboe with an all-volunteer staff. The organization provides support for veterans and their families.
Perry said last year Jarboe largely paid for the parade and organized it by herself. This year, he said, the committee — which is made up of many leaders in Topeka — solicited funds from the community so it wouldn’t have to come out of Jarboe’s pocket again.
Jarboe said around 2,500 veterans from five states – Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Iowa and Michigan – will be in the parade, and other entries have increased from last year, too.
The route is different as well. Because of Kansas Ave. construction, the parade will wind around the capitol, which Jarboe thinks is a better backdrop anyway.
One of Jamie Jarboe’s dying wishes was for his wife to take care of the veterans, and she has no plans of stopping.
“When I saw everyone on Monday Nov. 11 of last year, it showed me that there’s a great strength in our American community,” said Melissa. “We’re going to do this (parade) every year for the rest of my life.”
The parade starts at 11 a.m. on Nov. 8. Follow the links to find out more about the Topeka Veterans Parade and the Military Veteran Project.
My name is Melissa Jarboe, military spouse, wounded warrior wife and war widow. Today and everyday moving forward, I will honor the sacrifice of our men and women who selflessly serve our nation.