By Carlo Alcaraz Special to the Communitarian
The 56th annual Delaware County Veterans Day Parade was held on State Street in Media Nov. 11 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
One of the oldest parades of its kind in the United States, the procession was led by grand marshal and World War II veteran Lt. Eugene Vickers, who was also celebrating his 100th birthday the same day.
Hundreds of onlookers from across Delaware County lined State Street to watch as various veteran groups, high school marching bands, World War II reenactment groups, and rows of vintage cars and military vehicles made their way through downtown Media.
Crowds of people cheered as floats and military vehicles carrying several generations of members from various branches of the armed services passed by.
Jim Churchville, a retired U.S. Marine who served in Vietnam, chose to watch the parade, instead of participating, but said that the event still gave him a great sense of pride.
“It really is a great tribute to all those who’ve served,” he said. “It just gets better with each year.”
Veterans looking on from the street exchanged salutes with those waving off to the crowd.
Many of the more elderly veterans were driven in original historical vehicles, which frequently stopped so passengers could hand out small American flags to attendees.
Nine local high school marching bands provided musical accompaniment, as well as displays of flag twirling and synchronized marching.
The parade began at the intersection of Edgmont and State streets with the roar of engines from a local, all-veteran motorcycle club.
Led by members of the Valley Forge Military Academy on both horseback and foot, the procession passed the historic Media Theatre for the Performing Arts, where crowds of onlookers gathered to cheer on parade members.
Following them were several local American Legion chapters, comprising mostly elderly veterans. The groups hoisted American flags, as well as the flags of their respective chapters and units in which they served. Attendees raised their hands and applauded, shouting “Thank you!” as the group members marched past.
“It just makes me happy,” said a smiling Wayne Brown, who served in the U.S. Navy. “I’m really glad to be here to see this.”
Members of the Pennsylvania Veterans Museum followed the procession, dressed in historically-accurate recreations of World War II uniforms.
Accompanying them were members of the Delaware County Council, who passed from both ends of the street while thanking and shaking the hands of veterans both watching and participating in the parade.Shortly afterwards, the grand marshal of the parade, retired U.S. Navy Lt. Eugene Vickers, made an appearance in an American-flag painted Corvette sports car.
Accompanied by members of the U.S. Marine Corps, each one bearing an American flag, Vickers saluted and waved to the crowd, which responded with shouts and cheers of “Thank you for your service!”
Members of Vickers’ family walked alongside his vehicle and held up signs declaring his status as a World War II veteran, as well as celebrating his 100th birthday that day.
Many parents of the high school marching band called out to their kids and took photos as they passed through State Street along with several more American Legion groups.
Afterwards, dozens of vintage and collector cars from various decades passed, each carrying several veterans who waved from their seats, some throwing candy to onlookers.
Following this was an assortment of modern and historical military vehicles, ranging from restored World War-II era Jeeps to modern Humvees, as well as a collection of firetrucks and other emergency vehicles.
Several children in the crowd clapped as the trucks honked their horns, while many adults pointed to and complimented the condition of the vehicles.
The parade turned on to Orange Street and then on to Front Street, where it concluded at the Delaware Country Courthouse and Government Center.
Members of the parade dispersed in front of the courthouse, and into the nearby Veterans Square.
Onlookers applauded the display, and afterwards went to meet with individual parade members to congratulate them on the event.
Diane Burke, a local Media resident who was accompanied by her family, expressed her gratitude for the number of attendees that the event drew in, as well as her hopes for next year’s parade.
“I’m glad we all got to come out here to pay tribute to the vets,” she said. “Although they did have tanks last year, I really hope we get to see them next time.”