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Patriotic Article
By Van E. Harl

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Last Veterans Day Parade
(November 12, 2010)

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The Colonel has retired from the Air Force. We have bought a home in Milwaukee and will be headed there in May of 2011 after the daughter graduates from high school. For the past three years we have been stationed in Colorado Springs, Colorado--a very military town. The Air Force has three bases to include the US Air Force Academy.

The Army has Ft Carson on the south end of the Springs and at their one base, there are twice as many GIs as all the Air Force bases in town combined. You cannot pull into a parking lot anywhere in this town and fail to find a vehicle with a military sticker on it. Many of the leading and local businesses offer a military discount to their customers. The Air Force Academy has sailplane and parachute training going on almost every day, so I have small planes and gliders

Van E. Harl
Van E. Harl

flying over my house non-stop. Peterson AFB shares their runway with the local airport. Because Colorado Springs is in the middle of the country, military aircraft of every kind and branch of service stop off here to gas up, to include B17 and B24 WWII era bombers. I am waiting for the lighter-than-air dirigibles to pass through.
At times 8,000 to 10,000 Ft Carson soldiers are deployed to the middle-east. This also means not a month goes by without a death of a locally stationed Soldier. Ft. Carson has lost over 300 soldiers in combat since 9-11. There is a cemetery at the Air Force Academy and funerals for fallen Airmen are held there, less frequently than the Army but still the loss. Last weekend the City of Colorado Springs held its Veterans Day Parade.

There were over 100 entries in this year's parade. Colorado Springs has about 500,000 people compared to the Denver Metro area that is in the multiple millions of people. The Springs has the largest Veterans Day parade in the Rocky Mountain region. The city has to turn groups away every year in order to keep the event manageable. There is a waiting list for groups that are willing to go on stand-by, in order to possibly get the chance at the last moment to march in this parade. The downtown street where they march is packed on both sides with flag waving viewers and veterans wearing military marked ball caps, tee shirts and old uniform items. I am retired Air Force and that makes me an old veteran.

My wife is now a newly retired old veteran. The Colonel belongs to the Society of Air Force Nurses and for the past three years in Colorado they have marched in the Veterans Day Parade. I am a Colorado Rangers and for the past three years my Ranger Troop has augmented the Colorado Springs Police Department during the Veterans Day Parade. For me is it a labor of love. This year I was the call-out-commander of our Troop so I had to coordinate the Rangers working the parade. It also meant that I had to walk the entire parade route (1.5 miles long) multiple times that morning checking on Rangers posted along the way. My feet were sore, but I got to talk to everyone along the way, new and old veterans and their families. When you are in uniform you can walk up to anyone and they will talk to you.

The problem is this will be our last Veterans Day Parade in the Rocky Mountains. As my wife and her AF nurse group marched pass me on the parade route I did something very unprofessional, I walked out into the formation of nurses and kissed my most beloved veteran. I am not sure anyone even noticed, but it was our last parade. I called an old veteran friend in Milwaukee after he had attended a Veterans Day Parade there. He was a little disappointed at the lack of support and turn out of the public in honor of Veterans in his hometown. “Milwaukee is not a big supporter of the military” he stated to me on the phone. Well there will have two new Veterans in their town next year. I guess we will have to be proactive about our demonstration of support to this country's women and men who serve and protect us to maintain our great way of life. The Air Force flew two C130 aircraft right down the parade route below 1000 feet of elevation. That is what I call air support and a great crowd pleaser. Again we Aim High.

By Van E. Harl
Copyright 2010

About Author:
Major Van E. Harl, USAF Ret., was a career police officer in the U.S. Air Force. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. Major Harl is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School, the Air Force Squadron Officer School and the Air Command and Staff College. After retiring from the Air Force he was a state police officer in Nevada.

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