BOSTON – “I’m proud of our men and women in the service,” said Ed Collins, a Vietnam Veteran who served in the Army. “I haven’t missed a parade in forty years.”
Collins and hundreds of people lined the Boston Common to watch as Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Carter, The Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard, and the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s 54th Volunteer Regiment marched behind bagpipers the from Boston Police Department to start the Boston Veterans Day parade.
“My son served in Iraq for a year and my father was a veteran of Leyte Gulf,” said Ann Tolkoff, who stood in the crisp weather as she waited for the parade to begin.
Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, is observed on Nov. 11, to remember the end of hostilities in World War I, the “War to End all Wars.”
Today, Veterans Day honors the service of America’s veterans and is a federal and state holiday. While state and federal workers had the day off, many businesses remained open. Still a respectable crowd, many waving American flags, greeted the troops.
“I think we should be standing here,” said Tolkoff, “I brought my granddaughter here so she would know what a veteran was.”
Along with the Soldiers from the 54th Massachusetts Regiment the parade was comprised of fellow Guardsmen from the 211th Military Police Battalion, honor guards from the other military services, members of various ROTC units, marching bands and military vehicles.
Among the people watching the parade was Staff Sgt. Michael Martos, 101st Engineer Battalion, Massachusetts National Guard and an Iraq veteran.
Martos has been attending the Boston parade for the last few years. Veterans Day reminds Martos of where his service has taken him and what he has accomplished.
“I feel proud of what I’ve done,” said Martos. “If I had to do it again, I would.”
That sense of pride in their service was echoed from many veterans and pride in the service of the troops was frequently mentioned from many who had never served.
“We just saw these Soldiers go by,” said Stella Stride. “My heart hurt, because they are fighting for our freedoms … for everything that we live for.”
Stella and her husband, Chris Stride, were visiting Boston from their home in Toronto, Canada.
“We’re not in Canada, so we can’t support our Remembrance Day,” said Chris Stride. “We found out that there was a parade and really wanted to attend.”
On Nov. 11, Canadians celebrate Remembrance Day, their version of Veteran’s Day. Canadian troops are currently serving in Afghanistan.
As he marched alongside his fellow Soldiers in the 54th Massachusetts, Spc. Michael Dimonte remembered Sgt. Robert J. Barrett who was killed in Afghanistan earlier this year. Barrett trained Dimonte when he entered the 54th.
For Dimonte, seeing the crowd that lined the streets reinforced the meaning of the holiday.
“It’s actually a pretty good feeling, knowing that there are people out there that actually support what we’re doing,” said Dimonte. “Maybe they don’t support the war, but they support us and what we do and what we have to do. It’s a pretty good feeling to know that we actually have people out who care about what we’re doing.”