If you are going to honor military veterans one day a year and forget about them the other 364, then the day should be like this one, sunny and warm and with Main Street U.S.A. packed by cheering throngs.
And though the 46th annual Auburn Veteran's Day parade route was less than a mile long down Main Street Saturday, it took almost two hours for the 190-some entries to pass on foot or roll along in wheelchairs, cars, Jeeps, Army trucks, a mounted helicopter and roaring packs of motorcycles - hundreds of paralyzed veterans, disabled vets, black vets, Indian vets, Korean vets, Lao vets, Vietnam vets (U.S. and the Vietnam Republic) along with floats, beauty queens, drills teams, ROTC marchers and 30 marching bands.
The official Veteran's Day is Friday. But this celebration needs an open Saturday for its day-long events, with the parade front and center. Every uniformed organization from Green Berets to Cub Scouts helped honor those who fought wars good and bad, from the American Revolution to the Afghanistan devolution. An 80-year-old white-haired man in Navy blues even danced a jig.
And in the middle of the procession came the Veterans for Peace, marching to a different drummer.
They carried a standard Old Glory rather than their preferred flag with peace symbols replacing stars. After strolling Main, they went to their booth on A Street where they displayed a billboard of their discontent.
It showed the faces and told the stories of the 393 troops with Washington connections killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, a display clipped and mounted from a recent Seattle Weekly print edition devoted entirely to war obituaries.
The Seattle chapter of the 25-year-old Veterans For Peace organization has about 150 members and was formed in 2002. VFP's intent, it states, is "to raise public awareness of the true costs and consequences of militarism and war - and to seek peaceful, effective alternatives."
Mike Dedrick, 66, a Vietnam vet who says he became a peace convert "somewhere in the middle of the Tet Offensive," was manning the booth, and passing out copies of the newspaper with 33 of its 56 pages (the others taken up by ads) featuring the war toll.
He says he takes copies with him to high schools when military recruiters show up and drops the paper on their tables, saying "Maybe you recruited some of these guys."
Dedrick and his body-count display
As the parade progressed nearby and the crowd waved flags and "Support Our Troops" signs, Dedrick said he thought the tone of the event had changed in recent years, with Iraq finally being vacated by U.S. ground troops and a majority of Americans supporting a full pullout from Afghanistan.
The crowd at least seemed to be giving peace a chance when the VFP contingent marched down Main. The applause was polite. A few onlookers saluted, and one shouted "Right on, brother!"
"We get a good reception here," said Dedrick. "These days, they clap, smile, wave. It's not like it used to be. Some veterans would accuse you of being a traitor. That doesn't happen now.
"Peace is a good sell these days," he said, just as a soldier in desert camouflage wandered up to the obituary display and stacks of newspapers.
"Here, take one," said Dedrick, "they're free." He did. Maybe he knew someone, he said.
Fundraiser: Longtime Seattle musician Jim Page is the featured act at a Nov. 19, 8 p.m. fundraiser for VFP at the Bathhouse Theater at Green Lake. Page, a VFP member, will be joined onstage by Billy Oskay, Joe Martin, Sarah Scott and others. Tickets.