Generals of defenders honored at annual parade
“This is the first time the Comanche County Veterans Council put its own float in, and the first time that ‘Wreaths Across America’ is entered in the parade,” Dale Scott, chairman of the council, said.
Scott is spearheading an initiative by the council to place wreaths on the graves of all veterans buried in Comanche County for five weeks at Christmastime. The back panel of its parade entry carried veterans’ names drawn from a list on display at Comanche County Memorial Hospital.
The council had two purposes in entering the parade, Scott said. The first is to identify all the veterans buried in Comanche County.
“We had a good response from last weekend’s advertisement in the Sunday paper, and we have about 200 more names to add to the rosters. Plus the fact this is awareness that we have these ‘Wreaths Across America,’ where the wreaths are placed down on Dec. 15 and they’re taken up around Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so that veterans will be remembered during the holiday timeframe,” Scott said.
“It shows that we care. It represents the blood that we shed,” said Patrick Walsh, a local coordinator for “Wreaths Across America.”
With them on the float were Jessie Brundige of Lawton, national president of the Society of Military Widows, and Gary Secor, treasurer of the Comanche County Veterans Council. A considerable retinue accompanied them, as the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association provided an escort of six riders, and members of the MacArthur Middle School Student-to-Student Military Child Club and the MacArthur Middle School Builders Club marched alongside passing out flags and candy.
Walsh said the council now has a “Freedom Tree” next to the Holiday House inside the Northwest Third Street entrance to Elmer Thomas Park. It’s decorated with ribbons from last year’s wreaths to show the community’s loyalty in remembering and honoring its veterans.
Chapter 319 of the Korean War Veterans Association made its debut in the 2011 parade by riding in a borrowed van. This time they went all out, dressing up as characters from the Korean War-era movie and TV series, “M*A*S*H,” to win the second-place trophy in the chamber’s float contest.
“The reason we did that is because they had a lot of jokes and levity going on, but if it hadn’t have been for them, there were a lot of troops that would never have made it home. So we decided to do a take-off on ‘M*A*S*H,’ and we’re proud to say we got second place on it,” Bud Arenz, chapter commander, said.
The chapter had associate member Arlene Poirot portraying the character “Hot Lips” Houlihan. She is the widow of Korean War prisoner of war Don Poirot. Arenz and his brother, Korean War vet Roy Arenz, joined Rudy Trujillo, Bill Utsinger, John David and driver Lewis Reeder on the float.
The association is still on schedule to cut the ribbon to its new Korean War Memorial in Elmer Thomas Park on June 25, the 62nd anniversary of the war’s beginning, Arenz said.
First place in the float contest went to Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 751 with its entry entitled “The Last Patrol,” according to parade announcer John Beemer. Third place went to Keali’i’s School of Polynesian Dance, which has been part of the Lawton community for more than 25 years.
“It’s been going great,” Chamber President Debra Burch said. “We had a thousand marching soldiers. We had some impressive equipment that came through.”
One in particular that caught her eye was a Bradley Fighting Vehicle that delighted spectators by turning in tight circles.
Retired Maj. Gen. Ike Smith, here to attend the reunion of the 8th Battalion, 4th Field Artillery, that he commanded in Vietnam in 1969-70, rode in a Vietnamera Jeep driven by Zane Mohler, exhibits specialist at the Field Artillery Museum.
Also new to the parade was Red River Vet Center’s mobile vet center that goes to outlying communities to provide services to veterans. “Keeping the Promise” was the message it delivered.
Six young Marines from Class 08-11 of the Field Artillery Cannoneer Course joined the Boomer Detachment of the Marine Corps Detachment on their float, according to USMC Pfc. Luigi Torres, a member of the class that’s learning how to fire the Triple 7 howitzer.
“There’s a platoon of about 40 of us that will be marching behind us,” added USMC Pfc. Barton Nelson.
Sharon and Andy Bennett represented the Airborne Demonstration Team at Frederick Army Airfield by riding with the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 75th Fires Brigade entry celebrating the importance of Family Readiness Groups in today’s Army. The battery’s FRG leader, Lisa Glasscock, was there with her husband, 1st Sgt. Jack Glasscock, to spread the word about what they do. Her support assistant, Lino Rolden, said there was nothing like this in place when he went to Vietnam in 1969-70 with the 25th Infantry Division.
“The mission starts at home. If the soldier is happy, the mission gets accomplished,” he said.
One float new to the parade this year came from Harvest Plenty House of Prayer, 3826 SE Elmhurst. A sign on the back of a trailer festooned with paper flowers bore the message, “God Bless America With the Fruits of the Spirit.”
“We’ve been busy the past couple of weeks,” Angel Williams, the church youth director, said. Church youth ranging in age from 18-month-old Kamden Curry all the way up to 15 years and the adults helped build the float.
“They did a good job,” Deacon Tony Curry said. “I drove all the way from the church and didn’t lose a flower.”
Literally everyone and their dog was there. Elizabeth Smith came with her 15-month-old Siberian Husky, Enny, to walk with other pet owners from the Lawton Dog Fanciers Association Inc. Smith teaches puppy class twice a year when the association holds its obedience classes.
“We want to show our spirit and have our dogs decked out in red, white and blue as much as possible, and just have a good time,” she said. When it comes to having dogs in a parade, “manners are always very helpful. If they don’t have any kind of manners and you’re with other dogs, other dogs usually don’t do well. So, yes, they have to have a certain amount of socialization. And this dog has been through puppy training, and so she knows how to socialize with other dogs correctly.”