YAKIMA, Wash. — Ray Tayer sat in his wheelchair on the corner of North Second Street and East Yakima Avenue, holding a sign that read, “WWII Veteran, 101st Airborne.”
Every few minutes, someone passing by in the parade called out to him, thanking him for his service, or ran over to shake his hand.
“It’s really an honor for me to be thought of at this time,” the 90-year-old Army paratrooper said.
Tayer, along with his family, was one of a couple thousand people who turned out on Sunday to watch this year’s Veterans Day parade as it snaked up Yakima Avenue from Naches Avenue to the VFW post on South Fifth Avenue.
The parade is coordinated by the local Post #379 of the VFW, and this year boasted 45 different entries, including the Combat Veterans United motorcycle club, marching bands from local high schools and Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts helping escort the long line of cars carrying veterans and their families.
Temperatures hovered around a brisk 40 degrees, but that didn’t bother the people lining Yakima Avenue.
“It doesn’t matter to me, I come out every year and I want to support the vets,” said Carrie Seeberger-Ray, who said her four brothers and husband all served in the military at various times.
She was glad to see lots of kids and said she hopes such events help educate younger generations about the value of patriotism.
“It brings tears to your eyes. I like to see especially the old vets — they’re still lving it, and it’s very important to them,” she said.
The crowd turnout was fairly consistent with recent years, said parade coordinator Fred Camerer, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War. He’s helped organize the event for 13 or 14 years.
“It was really terrific, a lot of patriotism going on and we were happy to see that portion of it,” he said in the VFW hall after the parade, where veterans and their families were enjoying hot dogs, beer and relief from the cold.
He said the Yakima community does well in showing its respect for veterans, and the veterans are “guaranteed” to feel loved.
“The public makes sure of that, that they are well appreciated, and the guys just love it,” he said.
He didn’t have an exact head count for how many people marched or drove in the parade, but said there were well over 100 vehicles, including a long line of Corvettes and antique Fords.
Wayne Bechard, who served in the Air Force for more than 30 years, is from Yakima but lives in Tacoma now. He said events like this are key to showing veterans that people “understand what they’ve done for us.”
“I think (the vets) really appreciate it. You look at the smiles on their faces when you’re out here waving at ’em, the smiles on their face — they just light up,” he said. “It means the world to them. It’s such a simple thing to do, and means such big rewards.”
He was also glad to see lots of young people at the parade, and says he hopes schools help make kids more aware of the importance of the military.
That was the goal of Selah Junior High School teacher Bryan Dibble, who had a dozen students marching in historical military uniforms dating back to 1918.
“History shouldn’t be a boring class in school,” he said. It was for him, so he became a teacher “out of revenge.”
His students research the different wars so they understand the historical significance of the uniform they’re assigned. On Sunday, students represented service members from World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, the invasion of Grenada in 1983, the Gulf War, and from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in the early 2000s.
His eighth- and ninth-graders “come into school knowing virtually zero” about those conflicts, he said. But “Through this course of study, they start to really appreciate and understand what it means.”