Turnout light, but respect was high at Milford's Veterans' Day Parade

Bob Comer got choked up when he looked around at the Veterans’ Day Parade in downtown Milford Sunday.

There weren’t many people — maybe 200 tops — who had come to watch the parade and listen to speeches honoring veterans.

Rain drizzled from the sky, and the wind blew pretty strong.

“But the veterans won’t be kept away by wind or rain,” Comer said, pointing to veterans who marched or watched the ceremony. “They watched their friends freeze to death and die in Vietnam. The turnout here is light, too light for all those people who gave so much, those guys who were in the trenches.”

Others commented on the lack of a big crowd, too. One woman said sarcastically, “Wow, big crowd.”

Organizers of this year’s Veteran’s Day Parade had pushed for a bigger turnout, having noted that the event draws a much smaller crowd than the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which attracts thousands of people.

However, if the crowd was light, the mood and patriotism evident in the marchers and those who came to speak or to watch the event was strong.

Children held small flags, and the Fanara family’s two huge dogs, Kona and Kailua, wore signs around their necks: Kailua’s said, “Thank you” and Kona’s said “veterans.”

Foran and Jonathan Law high school bands poured out music on the downtown streets with energy and enthusiasm. Law’s drum majorette marched ahead of her group, waving her arms with force and energy to inspire and direct the musicians following her. Veterans marched, Scouts marched and city officials marched in honor of local veterans.

At the bandstand following the parade, veteran Jim Merrill explained why the men and women in uniform deserved respect on Veterans’ Day and every other day.

“I can worship my god, you can worship your god, you can worship no god, thanks to these people in uniform,” Merrill said.

Mayor Ben Blake spoke briefly but in a loud voice. “They fought so our children wouldn’t have to,” Blake said. “We celebrate those who made victory possible.”

Joe Carvalko, an author and lawyer who served in the Air Force, was the keynote speaker. This year’s parade was dedicated to veterans of the Korean War, and in past years Carvalko had traveled to Korea to search for missing prisoners of war there.

“Sixty three years ago young men and women answered the call to protect us against communism, which at that time, was this country's greatest threat,” Carvalko said. “Many of them left from that very railway station behind us. And rest assured that even 63 years later that railway station has not forgotten the boys turned men, some who returned on those very rails as fragments of war, lost limb or were shell shocked. And, as railway stations do not forget, neither should we.”

Carvalko continued, explaining that the Korean War is often forgotten or not acknowledged.

“What all generations that followed in the wake of this catastrophic event should not forget is that as of today more than 7,900 American soldiers are still missing in action from the Korean War,” he said. “Of the 7,190 who were captured, approximately 3,000 died in captivity, 43%, largely of starvation. U.S. deaths from hostilities were 33,739 and U.S. wounded in action was 103,284. It was a vicious, vicious  war.”