On the centennial of the end of WWI, county residents lined San Benito Street in Hollister on Nov. 11 to watch the town’s Veterans Day parade.
“It’s a way to honor our veterans,” said Frankie Gallagher, who has organized the annual parade for the last 10 years. “The entire community gets involved.”
Individuals and about 56 groups—including the San Benito Girls Scouts and Boy Scouts, San Benito High School, Supervisor Anthony Botelho, Supervisor-elect Jim Gillio and San Benito County Search and Rescue volunteers—took part in the parade. Gallagher told BenitoLink that there were only 19 participants the first year she organized the event. She added that the audience has grown over the years and that she believes there is now a better understanding of the importance of honoring and thanking veterans.
Veterans and nurses from WWII and the Vietnam War also participated in the Sunday parade. Marching bands from San Benito High School and Marguerite Maze Middle School performed in honor of those who fought. The Maze school band played “The Battle Hymn of the American Republic” as they marched down San Benito Street, stopping to play it in full as they faced a group of veterans at the Veterans Memorial Building.
Some veterans watched the parade from the sidelines. Paul, a former Army Ranger and airborne point man who fought in Vietnam and was wounded by a booby trap, lives in San Jose, but said he came to Hollister because his grandson was marching with the San Benito Cub Scouts. Paul, who declined to give his last name, attends such events because he “likes to see some of his ’nam brothers.”
Vietnam-era Army veteran Bob Picha said he attends events at the Veterans Memorial Building and he is happy to see that “veterans are now being honored” and that attitudes are changing, with help more readily available to veterans.
CeeCee Johnson, who attended the parade with Army veteran Jay Hegg, echoed Picha’s sentiments and asked where we would be without those who “fought for our freedom.”
For information on veteran services in San Benito County, visit http://www.cosb.us/community-services/veterans-services/.