Memorial Day parade Sunday: Grand marshal hopes for big turnout

This year’s Grand Marshal of the Memorial Day parade, Christine Smith, is hoping for a big turnout at this year’s parade, which will be Sunday, May 27, at 2 p.m., starting at the Parsons Government Center and running to the Broad Street green.

Smith is usually a behind-the-scenes kind of community servant. Her husband, Greg Smith, is a former alderman and has been more in the public eye over the years as a city official and veteran representative.

Christine, Vice Chairman of the Milford Veterans, Ceremony and Parade Commission and a U.S. Navy veteran, has generally been a less visible mover and shaker here — though a stint with the Alley Cats, a female a cappella group, had her front and center a number of years performing at local charity events.

After graduating from Jonathan Law High School in 1981, Christine was attending the University of Bridgeport for Theater Arts but soon ran out of funds to continue.

“I was thinking of joining the Air Force,” she said, “when Greg Smith, a friend of mine from high school, came back from Navy training on his way to his first sea duty assignment on the USS Kidd. We started dating, fell in love and decided to get married.”

In January 1984, they married and moved to Norfolk, Va., where Greg’s ship was stationed. He soon left for the Mediterranean Sea for a seven-month deployment.

“While he was gone, I spent time with other Navy wives and soon realized I wanted to do more,” Christine said. “I joined the U.S. Navy Reserves, and two weeks after my husband returned from his deployment, I went to Orlando, Fla., for basic training. After returning, I was stationed at the Fleet Combat Direction System Support Activity (FCDSSA) in Dam Neck, Va., for six years, where I earned the rank of Data Processor 2nd Class Petty Officer working as a computer operator.”

During that time, Christine received an associate’s degree in computer science from Tidewater Community College in Virginia, and later a bachelor of science degree in computer science at Charter Oak State College in Connecticut. She worked as a computer programmer/technical specialist for 20 years at the Nasdaq Stock Market, and currently works as an applications development lead at Vodafone US in Connecticut.

“Due to my husband, Greg’s, many deployments overseas in areas of conflict from 1981 to 2005 in the Army and Navy, including Grenada, Beirut and the Global War on Terrorism, I was eligible to join the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Auxiliary at VFW Post 7788 here in Milford in 2006, where I held numerous offices at the local, district and state levels, as well as a national appointment,” Christine said.

She is currently the State President of the VFW Auxiliary, serving veterans, their families and communities through a number of VFW Auxiliary programs.

She even jumped out of an airplane with fellow VFW Auxiliary members for Sky Dive for Veterans to raise funds for House of Heroes Connecticut and for Work Vessels for Vets.

She and Tom Flowers, Chairman of Milford’s Veterans, Ceremony and Parade Commission, hope this year’s parade will see people lining downtown Milford in honor of the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.

“We always want to see as many people as possible turn out for our Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades,” Christine said. “The Veterans, Ceremony and Parade Commission feels that getting the word out is key.”

This year there will be a special tribute to World War II veterans, who will be driven along the parade route and seated in front of the band shell.

“We are honoring World War II veterans who reside in Milford,” Christine said. “Of course, the number of World War II veterans decreases day by day. We have already invited the World War II veterans that we know of, and we ask that those we don’t know, or their families, to call Tom at 203-444-5351.”

The 2nd Company Governor’s Foot Guard will join the march this year. The group is the musical arm of one of the oldest continually active military units in the United States, chartered in 1775, and the first commandant was Revolutionary War General Benedict Arnold. It was the first organized military unit to take action against the British, according to a write-up about this year’s Milford parade.

Flowers and Christine are using print media, social media and the city’s resources, including the mayor’s reverse 911 calls, to notify Milford citizens of the parade. The efforts made a difference last year, drawing many more people to the parade than in previous years.

“It is always important to show respect and to honor our veterans who gave their life for our country, to let veterans here and abroad know that all that they do for us across the globe will not be forgotten,” Christine said.

The Memorial Day wreath laying ceremony will take place the same day in front of City Hall at 9:45 a.m.

Organizations that would like to participate in the parade are asked to call Russ Edwards at 203-876-0914.