Thousands attend annual Veterans Day Parade

Downtown – Thousands lined Harbor Drive today to pay tribute to local veterans at San Diego's Veterans Day Parade.

The annual event features everything from inspirational floats depicting events like the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima, to inspirational veterans.

Col. Marvin Hollenbeck landed the first plane in Iwo Jima under heavy fire. He tells me the only thing on his mind during that all important mission was to get thousands of pounds of ammunition to the troops – no matter the risk.

“You can't put any value on your life at all,” he says, speaking from inside a trolley, “because this is your job that you are assigned to do.”

Hollenbeck survived multiple dangerous missions in his 22 year career in the Marines. One of his wingmen – baseball legend Ted Williams.

There is no shortage of veterans to be inspired by here, carried down alongside cheering crowds in trolleys, cars, and floats. They fought in World War Two, the Korean War, Vietnam, and the Iraq and Afghan wars. This year the parade featured a special tribute for veterans who served in the Vietnam conflict.

And along with the veterans marching in today's parade, people lined up all along Harbor Drive, many of them veterans as well.

Including Col. Bob Dingeman, who served in World War Two, Korea and Vietnam, has been awarded nine purple hearts, a bronze star, and a silver star.  Rather than ride in the parade he chooses to salute his fellow veterans on this day. “We have, perhaps, the largest veteran's population in the entire United States,” says Col. Dingeman, “and we're doggone proud of it.”

The girl scouts saluted veterans by carrying pictures as they walked the parade route.  And the US Midway museum introduced a 41-foot, aircraft carrier-shaped balloon as part of its tribute.

Chanteria Drake is a corpsman in the Navy, marching in her first parade. “I really love it. You don't really get to see a lot of this, see all the military, all the branches together, see the old, see the new, see how it was in the past and how it's different now, the comparison.”

Al Vodenlos – at 93 years old, the oldest survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor –  says he too gets so much out of meeting other dedicated veterans. Leaning out of a VW Beetle decked out by the Pearl Harbor Survivor's Association, he tells me “I enjoy shaking hands with them. They come out to honor to me and I want to honor them.”

A day to salute and pay tribute to our military veterans.

Bridget Naso

Categories: KUSI