Veterans Groups Plan Parade Two Days After Memorial Dedication
By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 30, 2004; Page A08
The only time Maj. Gen. J. Milnor Roberts was in a parade, it wasn't a hometown celebration after his return from World War II. He was in Paris, riding through city streets in an open vehicle in 1944 to the French cheers of liberated thousands.
"When everyone back home was celebrating, having parades, we were still over there. We never got parades back home," said Roberts, an 85-year-old World War II veteran who now lives in Alexandria and always longed for a day like the one in Paris 60 years ago, only on home soil.
Roberts and hundreds of others like him will finally get that hometown parade in the nation's capital this Memorial Day. A consortium of veterans groups banded together a few months ago to start talking about such a parade and yesterday announced plans for the event, which will be held two days after the May 29 dedication of the National World War II Memorial.
"You saw all those ticker-tape parades in New York and tiny little hometown things, but here in our nation's capital, in Washington, D.C., we never had one," said Roberts's wife, Priscilla, co-founder of the Parade Salute to World War II Veterans. "I think this will be a last hurrah for many of these veterans. One final time to go before the reviewing stand and be acknowledged for what they did."
When he was in Paris 60 years ago, Roberts watched as another soldier removed his helmet during the celebration and immediately got whacked by a stray wine bottle, resulting in a fairly serious head injury. "He earned a Purple Heart for that one," Roberts said.
Flying wine bottles won't be the biggest fear at this parade. The gravest danger to the veterans, most of whom are 80 to 90 years old, will be heart attacks, said Alan Etter, D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services spokesman.
The department will have rapid-response paramedics on bicycles, 10 paramedic units and 15 more from other departments coming to help, along with a team of military doctors, coordinated by U.S. Park Police, Etter said.
More than 200 organizations have said they will participate, including the American Legion, Catholic War Veterans, Tuskegee Airmen, the Women's Army Corps Veterans Association and the White House Commission on Remembrance. Floats, vintage vehicles and grand marshals will join the celebration. More than 40 bands will march, including some from Canada, Britain and France.
The parade will begin at Third Street and Madison Drive NW and proceed south to Independence Avenue, ending at 12th and Independence. There will be seats for at least 5,000 spectators.
More information about the parade is available at www.WorldWar2Parade.com.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company