By Samantha Foster
A few hundred people turned out Monday for Topeka’s first Veterans Day parade, which took about an hour to travel along S. Kansas Avenue.
About a half-hour before the parade’s 11 a.m. start, crowds already were seated or standing along the parade route. Many brought flags to wave. Some wore uniforms.
Veterans of all ages greeted each other with handshakes, some introducing themselves and talking briefly about their service.
Will McClammy, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, attended the parade with his wife, Tamara, and Anabelle Kearney, 4. He said Anabelle’s mom and dad both are veterans and served in Iraq. Will and Tamara’s middle daughter also is in the military.
“We have a long history,” he said.
Vietnam veteran Charles Johnson said he attended the parade in memory of friends he lost in the war.
“I’m here to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and laid down their life,” he said. “I’m fortunate enough I got wounded and was able to make it back home, but there are many who weren’t able to make it back home.”
Johnson said he was wounded during a night ambush in 1966. He fell into a punji stake pit, he said.
“I guess God blessed me, because when I came down on top of them, they all brittled up and turned to ashes,” he said. A bullet tore through his arm.
Marching bands and JROTC members from local high schools marched in the parade. Dozens of floats including servicemen and women drove through downtown Topeka, as did motorcycles and Arab Shrine cars.
Miss Kansas Theresa Vail, who is a member of the Kansas National Guard, also participated in the parade alongside mascots Sluggerrr, of the Kansas City Royals, and K.C. Wolf, for the Kansas City Chiefs.
While some spectators expressed surprise that this was Topeka’s first Veterans Day parade, others said they hoped Topeka would continue to show increased support for those who have served in the military.
This year’s Topeka Veterans Day Parade was organized by Melissa Jarboe, who started the Military Veteran Project after her husband, Staff Sgt. Jamie Jarboe, died in 2012. Jamie Jarboe was severely injured by a sniper in the Zhari District of Afghanistan almost a year before he died.
The parade provided a new opportunity for one pair of friends.
Bob Marling said every year he takes his friend Richard Tarter, a 90-year-old World War II veteran, to a Veterans Day event. This year, they attended the parade.
“We’ve been friends for 30 or 40 years,” he said.
Marling said Tarter served in the Bougainville campaign in the South Pacific.
Employees of several downtown businesses watched the parade from their doorways.
The parade lasted about one hour. It traveled south on S. Kansas Avenue and turned west on S.W. 12th before heading north on S.W. Jackson, past the Statehouse.
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.