Aspen parade mission: Enlist veteran participation | AspenTimes.com

Aspen parade mission: Enlist veteran participation

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

ASPEN – After helping coordinate U.S. military veterans’ participation in Aspen’s Fourth of July parade since 1995, Sally Glenn is on a special mission this year. She wants to enlist as many World War II veterans as possible to march in the parade or ride in a vehicle.

“The World War II guys are leaving us pretty quickly,” Glenn said. “It’s good to let them know that they’re appreciated for literally saving the world.”

The late Morry Hollenbaugh, a former Marine fighter pilot in the South Pacific in World War II, came up with the idea of getting veterans to march in Aspen’s parade 16 years ago. Glenn volunteered to help coordinate the march just as a citizen who appreciates the sacrifices made by veterans. She said the organizers that first year “begged” about 15 veterans to participate so that there would be a decent representation.

The turnout among veterans has steadily climbed each year and the reception from Aspen’s parade audience was dynamite from the start.

“The first year we weren’t sure what the reaction was going to be,” Glenn said. The crowds that lined the streets along the parade route cheered the entire way, bringing tears to even some of combat-hardened vets. The veterans march is now an integral part of the parade.

Glenn said the parade helps bring some recognition to the veterans of the Korean War, which is often overlooked. It brings respect for veterans of the Vietnam War, whom for years were often under-appreciated, at best, or vilified, at worst.

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Vietnam veteran Hugh Roberts of Basalt avoided participating in the parade the first few years of the effort. There was still too much bite to the memories of getting spit on at the airport after arriving back in the U.S. while the war stilled raged.

“When I finally did participate it was overwhelming,” he said. There was nothing but cheers from the crowd.

Glenn said she believes Americans have learned over the years how to express dissatisfaction or opposition to conflicts more effectively. “We can’t blame the warrior for the war,” she said.

Roberts enjoys participating in the Aspen parade so much that he now helps recruit participants. He welcomes other vets to march in a Hawaiian shirt, as he does.

The march is an important symbolic step on Independence Day. “The veterans like to be recognized for their service,” Roberts said. “The crowd likes to recognize them for their service.”

Roberts recently sent out a military-style “operational order” to all Pitkin County military veterans on his mailing list, urging them to participate in this year’s parade.

The mission, the order says, is: “To celebrate the 235th anniversary of American Independence, Freedom and Liberty; the same Independence, Freedom and Liberty that was purchased and defended with the sacrifice, blood and courage of millions of American service men and women.”

Typically about 75 veterans march and another 15 or so ride in vehicles. Some wear their military uniforms or parts of their uniforms.

The veterans will meet on Main Street near Paepcke Park at 11 a.m. Monday, July 4. The banners and placards will make the gathering impossible to miss.

Veterans who need to ride in a vehicle, or people who can provide rides for veterans, should call Peter Hoffmann at 379-1371 as soon as possible.

Roaring Fork Valley residents and visitors are welcome. Glenn stressed that veterans from any era are encouraged to participate in the parade. She’s just trying to make sure World War II veterans get their due in their golden years.

“We’re celebrating our freedom on the Fourth because of these people,” she said.

Any questions can be directed to Hugh Roberts at 927-4194.

scondon@aspentimes.com