43rd Veterans Day Parade celebrates those who served
Some cheered, waved mini-U.S. flags or clapped, while others silently saluted as veterans and other groups paraded through the Hollywood District on Saturday morning for the 43rd annual Veterans Day Parade.
Several veterans could be seen in the crowd sporting the familiar military veterans caps — dark with yellow lettering indicating what country or perhaps ship they fought in or served on.
Some were viewing the celebrations jubilantly alone, including Harold Smith, 77, a Vietnam veteran who served in the Navy from 1963-1967.
"The world has been at war forever," he said, "So a military is very important because you need a military for your own defense. You know, a man fights. I wish the world could learn to live in peace, but unfortunately, that's not the case."
He was one of few African American veterans in the parade or observing it.
Marching toward the end of the procession handing out artificial red poppy flowers with the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) was Bruce Broussard, 78, who advocates remembering African Americans' roles throughout military history. He ran for mayor of Portland last year.
The "remembrance poppy" as they're called, have been used since 1921 to honor those who died in war.
He wore a Buffalo Soldier uniform underneath his coat during the parade. Buffalo Soldiers were all-black regiments of the U.S. Army in the Civil War.
"It's to share with folks about the participation of black Americans in the military — from the Revolutionary War to the present," Broussard said. "For some strange reason we don't spend enough time educating folks and as a result we in our country have a divide of black and white. The bottom line is if we spent more time educating the public of benefits and involvement of blacks in the military ... it'd help the country."
He said he helped install the first military recruitment office in Northeast Portland in the late 1960s. He originally grew up in Louisiana, went to school in Texas, including, he said, being involved with the first all-black ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) unit in Houston.
He thinks the military often gives people needed direction.
"A lot of folks don't have direction and need some direction. You get in the military, and everyone's working — everybody has a job. So it was very beneficial to us," Broussard said, adding that it was unfortunate that the draft was gone, calling modern military a "voluntary situation with a high-tech mindset."
"But the military is still an asset," he said.
Ancer Lee Haggerty, a prominent African American public figure from Portland, also served in Vietnam in the Marine Corps. He was the presiding judge in the trial of Tom Metzger, a white supremacist involved in the 1988 murder of an Ethiopian college student, Mulugeta Seraw in Portland.
Haggerty was only in Vietnam for 11 days when he was seriously wounded as a Marine lieutenant and sent back to Portland for rehab, for which he became the first African American Marine Corp officer ever to be awarded the Silver Star. He served as a recruiter for the rest of his time in the military but also had to notify families when their relatives were killed, which he said was the most difficult part if his job.
Marching in the parade toward the middle-end was Portland's chapter of the National Association for Black Veterans (NABVETS), including a group of about 20 marchers followed by a few vehicles.
The Multnomah County Commission singled out African American veterans and NABVETS for special attention in a resolution it adopted last Thursday that declared Nov. 11 to be Veterans Day.
The resolution noted that President Woodrow Wilson first named Nov. 11 a national holiday by proclaiming it Armistice Day in 1926, commemorating the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I and honoring those who served in that war. Currently, more than 44,000 veterans are residents of the county.
The resolution also says that the military history of African Americans spans from the arrival of the first black slaves during the colonial history of the United States to the present day.
There has been no war fought by or within the United States in which African Americans did not participate, including the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, the World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other minor conflicts.
While Smith and Broussard think military participation is necessary, others aren't so sure.
Carolin Harris was observing the parade with her 8-year-old daughter. They live in the neighborhood. Harris is a German citizen living in Portland with a green card, meaning she can live and work permanently in the United States.
In asking if she would support her daughter if she later in life wanted to join the military, Harris said that identifies as a pacifist, or someone who believes that war and violence are always unjustifiable.
"I'm a pacifist, so it's a little hard to go that route — but if she wants to do it, I'll support her," she said. "I think America has a really big responsibility because of the power it holds in its hands. Whether that's being done responsibly currently, is a hard one to answer."