As the child of a Vietnam veteran, a military spouse for more than a decade and now the mom of an Army officer, I can’t get through a Veterans Day parade without shedding a few proud, emotional tears.
Pleasanton’s parade Nov. 1 was full of stirring moments — a trolley car of World War II Veterans, Las Positas College student veterans, Pleasanton police veterans and many more — all traveling down Main Street to an appreciative crowd. Regardless of what these veterans are doing now — and some are still in the military — for that moment they were recognized for their shared history of serving their country.
“We think our parade is one of the largest veterans’ celebrations in Northern California,” said Paul Siedschlag, the finance officer of the Pleasanton chapter (Post 237) of the American Legion. World War I veterans established this group in 1920 and also supported the building of the beautiful Memorial Hall. Today there are 164 registered members, and they are busy, especially at this time of year.
Besides the parade, which they co-sponsor with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, they hand out red poppies outside stores, team up with Girl Scout troops to put on a holiday party for local foster kids and present programs with flag folding demonstrations at elementary schools. Their current project is to build a Vietnam memorial in the Pioneer Cemetery. The City Council recently gave its approval, and fundraising efforts are underway.
“Our town is so patriotic; it’s incredible,” said Siedschlag.
Pat Frizzell, chair of Pleasanton Military Families, agrees that the town is supportive. This organization began in 2003 when troops started leaving for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Chris Miller, who served in the U.S. Army as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, was determined that returning soldiers would receive a warmer homecoming than he experienced and began the group to support the families left behind. Mothers, fathers, girlfriends and anyone connected to the military could find a place in this group to express worry, frustration and joy.
“At that first meeting,” recalls Frizzell, “the house was completely packed with people.”
Over time, as the troops came home, the group expanded to service projects — holiday packages for soldiers serving overseas, yellow ribbons on the lamp posts on Main Street, homecomings for soldiers and aid to returning veterans. Their annual pancake breakfast in June raises funds to pay postage for the holiday packages. This year they are preparing packages for 14 local soldiers who are serving overseas.
“When we started, we weren’t sure how long we’d last or what our direction would be,” said Frizzell. “But people stay, and new families are constantly joining because they see the good work in it and the close friendships that form. We’ve evolved to what we call ‘support through service.’ ”
To donate to this year’s holiday packages for the troops, visit the suggested donation list atwww.pleasantonmilitaryfamilies.org. Bring items to the Veterans Memorial Hall from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Nov. 20. To learn more about the American Legion and support the proposed veterans memorial, visit www.americanlegionpost237.org.