Fair weather makes for large crowd at parade honoring veterans

By Bill Felber

Blessed by mild November conditions, throngs of Manhattanites lined Poyntz Avenue Friday to view the annual Veterans Day parade here.

The event culminated a day’s worth of activities that also featured an 11 a.m. program at City Auditorium headlined by Brig. Gen. Donald MacWillie, senior commander of the First Infantry Division and Fort Riley. Parade grand marshals Burke Bayer and Cecil Eyestone, both World War II veterans, were honorary grand marshals of the event, which was sponsored by the Flint Hills Veterans Coalition.

As in previous parades, dignitaries gathered at a reviewing stand set up in front of City Hall to review dozens of veterans, student, scout and civic groups that took part. This year, the reviewing stand also featured about 75 members of the Fort Riley Spouses Choir, who performed the Star Spangled Banner as the first marchers passed by. That may not be the last seen of the choir, since the segment was filmed by USA Network for possible inclusion in a show tentatively titled “The Choir.” Laura Sweet, one of the organizers at Friday’s filming, said the hope is to air the segment in late February.

Eyestone and Bayer may have been the most prominently featured veterans Friday, but they were not the only ones. About two dozen members of the Vista Veterans Coffee Group rode together along the route from Manhattan Town Center to City Hall. That number included six from World War II — John Roberts, Gordon Cramer, Jim Sharp, Charles V. Hall, Ed Burns and Bill Thornburrow — as well as others from Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm.

Dick Towers, one of the Korean War vets, said the Vista group has been meeting daily for coffee at Vista for about two decades, and has been regulars in the parade for more than a decade. It is an eclectic mixture of veterans. “We’ve got doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs, judges, investors…you got a problem, come down and we’ll solve it,” he said. There’s only one thing they’re not, he added … “organized.”

Also prominent in the parade were representatives of county elementary schools, many carrying hand-painted signs thanking veterans. Bands from local high schools provided music. Dozens of active duty troops from Fort Riley marched, and more than a dozen members of the Polly Ogden chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution rode.

They represented 107 local members, whose current leader, Nancy B. Williams, noted that the group has been involved in several activities designed to aid former, current and future troops. She said those activities include providing scholarships to female Army and Air Force cadets at KSU, donating books to the Topeka Veterans Administration hospital, and shipping boxes of necessities to women veterans stationed in Afghanistan.

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