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Veterans Day parade returns to Springfield after two-year hiatus

The State Journal-Register - 11/11/2021

Nov. 12—Rosemary Connolly said she and other veterans have waited a long time to have a Veterans Day parade in downtown Springfield.

"It makes the day the day it was meant to be," said Connolly, who rode with the Catholic War Veterans, Bishop Joseph A. McNicholas Post 1916 from Springfield, Thursday morning.

Winter-like weather scuttled the parade two years ago while the COVID-19 pandemic forced its cancellation last year.

Rain earlier Thursday morning cleared for a parade of military vehicles from the Illinois State Military Museum at Camp Lincoln, the USS Sangamon from the Navy Club, reenactors from several different wars and marching bands from the city's three public high schools: Lanphier, Southeast and Springfield.

Sam Montalbano, a 92-year-old Korean War veteran who has usually been on the other side organizing, the parade, was the grand marshal.

The parade even featured "Corporal Ava," Mark Whitlock's half border collie, half German shorthair pointer, wearing a coat fashioned from an old World War II blanket. Whitlock, a veteran of the U.S. Army, is a volunteer with the Military Museum.

Phil Brown, commander of the Interveterans Council of Sangamon County, said he felt "blessed" that the weather held out.

"It's so wonderful to be back," said Brown, who helped organize the parade. "I'm so glad for my fellow veterans and I'm honored to have the privilege to organize this event this year. I couldn't be happier."

Delmer Flournoy, the senior vice commander of American Legion Post 809 in Springfield and a U.S. Navy veteran, was also happy for the parade's return.

"It's always great to have one," Flournoy said. "In the military, it doesn't matter what the weather is. If you have to go, you have to go."

People, including Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder, lined Capitol Avenue from the step-off at Ninth Street to the Capitol Building where the Springfield Fire Department hung a giant flag.

In between Fifth and Sixth streets, 7-year-old Knox Thurman stood saluting as flags passed by.

"We're trying to teach some of that," said Thurman's father, Lance Thurman.

Knox Thurman was wearing a replica of his uncle's captain's jungle fatigues when he was with the U.S. Army's82nd Airborne Division. Thurman's uncle, Jared Thurman, now works for the U.S.Secret Service.

Lance Thurman said his paternal grandfather, father and brother were all veterans.

Near Seventh Street and Capitol, 7-year-old Adalynn Horacek held a handmade sign which read "Thankful for you."

"We wanted to honor the soldiers," said Linda Woodson, who brought Horacek and several other children from her day care to the parade. "We've been talking about it all morning. We made the sign together."

Bruce Martin, a Patriot Guard Rider and a U.S. Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War from 1969 to 1970, said the Veterans Day parades used to be huge, but he was encouraged by some young people who "at least are taking note about what this is all about."

Martin also belongs to local VFW and American Legion posts as well as the Vietnam Veterans of America. Among those organizations, there's been a considerable membership fall off, especially in smaller communities.

"Several towns are having to combine (to have) a VFW or to have an American Legion," said Martin before the parade. "They don't have enough membership to sustain their own local clubs. Even in the Patriot Guard (a group that shields families of veterans from groups attempting to disrupt funeral services, we've lost 300 members in the last several years. People aren't volunteering like they used to, not just for military organizations, but other volunteer organizations.

"Some of that's generational. People assume things are going to stay the way they are now."

Connolly said she also belongs to other organizations such as the VFW and the American Legion, in addition to the Air Force Sergeants Association and the Women's Overseas Service League.

Connolly, who is retired from the Air Force, said she didn't think females were encouraged nearly enough to join the military. Young people, she added, notice how veterans are being treated so "if they see disrespect to the veterans, why the heck are they going to join?

"I'm proud of what I did. I would encourage others (to serve). I want to get the young people involved."

Montalbano, who was being cheered on by his sister, Mickie Colton, and daughter, Karen Hampton, both of Springfield, near the beginning of the parade, said he was humbled to serve as grand marshal.

"I always say when people say 'thank you for your service,' mean it, because all of these veterans they need their respect," he said. "This is their day. I wish people would give the veterans courtesy and respect they deserve. We need the parade and I'm glad to see (the group) took it over."

Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788,,


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