A parade this past Saturday in Downtown Pacific to honor military veterans, especially those who served during wars and armed conflicts, attracted people from throughout the area to pay their respects.
Two parking lots were used to stage the procession — the Meramec Valley Middle School and Tri-County Senior Center.
Pacific High School JROTC cadets practiced for an hour between the two parade staging areas.
Aging veterans, many from World War II and the Korean Conflict, were among the floats and marchers in procession.
Ten members of Labadie American Legion Post 565 rode in a freshly painted Army truck and trailer courtesy of Leo MacDonald. Legionnaires included Ed Myers, Alvin Meyer, Chester Zawadzki, Lloyd Harfst, Leonard Gildehaus, Charles Staats, Emmett Becker, Harvey Dubbs, Mike Brinkmann and John Becker.
The Gray Summit Lions Club, which participates in every parade held in Pacific, turned out in force. A float with seats for 24 was decorated with flags and photographs of area veterans from World War I through recent conflicts.
Riley Pemberton, 81, who served in the Korean Conflict, didn’t ride on the fancy float, opting instead to march from the Meramec Valley Middle School through downtown and back to the school. But photographs of eight of his family members were on the side of the float. His son, Bill, grandson Mike Sr. and great-grandsons Mason, 4, and Mike Jr., 6, had their own float for the parade.
Gene Cowsert never served in the U.S. military, but 30 members of his family did, including his father, son, brother and an array of nephews and he never misses an opportunity to honor them.
The Gray Summit Lions Club assembled a photo array of the 30 Cowsert relatives who served in the military from World War I to recent conflicts.
The Meramec Valley History Museum hosted the parade, which was designed to honor past veterans who served in previous wars and conflicts and to recognize veterans living in the community today.
Jeannie Bandermann, Historical Society secretary, organized the event.
The Pacific High School JROTC cadets led the procession, followed by antique fire trucks, floats, trucks and convertibles carrying veterans and members of their family.
As the parade passed the Tri-County Senior Center, trucks, convertibles and marchers moved into the procession.
Family members of those killed in action were prominent among marchers and riders in the procession, including the seven men who were immortalized when local streets were named for them — Holland, Orr, Payne, Roberts, Thornton and Williams.
As the family members assembled there was not a vacant parking space left on the senior center lot.
So many members of the Thornton family were present that a special truck was needed to carry them.
Following the veterans’ families and convertibles honoring the fallen and MIAs, other floats eased into the procession.
The Myers brothers, Steve and Greg of Boy Scout fame, brought a truck and a large group of local Boy Scouts to honor the veterans.
Three generations of family members of the late Edmund Murphy came with two antique tractors and small float lined with hay bales.
“We’re here to honor Grandpa,” said Ginna Christiansen, Murphy’s granddaughter.
Murphy served in the Navy during World War II and was present on an escort ship next to the U.S. Missouri for the Japanese signing of the surrender in 1945.
Among family members who came to carry his banner were Michell Murphy, great-granddaughter Madelyn Christiansen, granddaughter Jessica Wymer, great-granddaughter Lydia Christiansen, granddaughter Ginna Christiansen, his son Don Murphy and Adam Wymer, grandson-in-law.
Members of the Gateway Chapter of the American Truck Historical Society and the Gateway Fire Truck Historical Society got the opportunity to show their 1956 American LaFrance fire engine, which first went into service in 1956 as Rolla Pumper No. 3.
Kevin Wright, Bruce Barns, Mike Hartlage, John McCarty and Zachery McCarty were placed in the lead of the floats.
“We just got it in July,” said Mike Hartlage. “This is our first time to show it.”