Thousands come out to support veterans


Gloomy skies over San Diego did not dampen the gratitude on Veterans Day for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.

Thousands participated in Veterans Day events around San Diego County, including a popular downtown parade.

One of the biggest events was the 23rd annual Veterans Day parade in downtown San Diego, which annually attracts thousands of spectators and participants from all branches of the military.

“The crowd was loud and boisterous. They cheered and waved and whistled. They definitely showed their appreciation for the veterans,” said retired Navy Master Chief Joe Brunner, who heads the Veterans Day Parade Committee.

An estimated 7,000 people marched in the parade, including Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and JROTC high school students, Brunner said.

“Welcome Home Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraq Freedom Veterans” was the theme of this year’s parade to honor the 1.8 million who have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to the Pentagon, 5,267 service members have been killed in the wars since 2002.

That does not include civilian casualties, veterans who have died from injuries after they left the military, or the 12 military personnel recently gunned down at Fort Hood in Texas before they could be sent overseas.

Participants were asked to wear yellow ribbons or clothing to show support for the nation’s veterans.

The parade began at 11 a.m. at Pacific Highway and Cedar Street and proceeded south to West Harbor Drive.

Memorial services also were held around San Diego County.

Veterans for Peace of San Diego held a morning “Arlington West” Veterans Day memorial featuring crosses to symbolize military personnel who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan next to the USS Midway Museum.

The group reads aloud the name, rank, age and hometown of every service member who died in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Jim Brown, a member and past president of Veterans for Peace of San Diego.

“We don’t give speeches. That’s someone’s opinion,” said Brown, a

Vietnam War veteran. “We read their names. This is the fact of the matter. These people have died in wars and we are recognizing that.”

Brown did not have a crowd total but estimated that hundreds participated.

There were Veterans Day celebrations in Rancho Bernardo at Webb Park, Carlsbad at the Army and Navy Academy and Escondido at Grape Day Park.

Veterans Day was also recognized at Legoland California with the installation of a permanent display of a miniature replica of the Vietnam War Memorial made entirely out of Lego bricks.

In the afternoon, a World War II-era Corsair fighter plane was hoisted onto the deck of the USS Midway Museum during a Veterans Day ceremony. There was also entertainment, skydiving and an appearance by the world champion Chula Vista Parkview Little League team. A dollar from every paid admission will be donated to the Veterans Village of San Diego.