Gilbert Days Parade – November 22nd – American Legion Post 39 invited a couple of our Veterans and their wives down to see the parade and be honored on a ‘red carpet’ as everyone passed by. I was lucky enough to get to be their escort for the event. This American Legion post have been having breakfasts and, on this particular day, donated all proceeds from their “Duck Pond” game to Honor Flight AZ. When all was said and done, American Legion Post 39, along with the President of the Legion Riders, Basil Kaspar, have presented Honor Flight Arizona with checks to sponsor 3 WWII Veterans to fly this spring!
Mr. Bunke, one of our Veterans present at Gilbert Days (his first Gilbert Days Parade, in fact), published this letter about their experience that day, which I repost with his permission:
On Saturday, November 22, 2014, the Town of Gilbert, Arizona enjoyed their annual Gilbert Day’s Celebration. The opening event of the day was a beautiful and very-organized parade. It was a large parade running down Gilbert Road from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
The Gilbert American Legion Post #39 was a very important part of the parade from a patriotic standpoint. Post #39 has also been very active in fundraising and the promotion of Honor Flight Arizona. Found of the Sun has been outstanding in its funding and promotion of Honor Flights as well. We all remember “A Night to Remember” last January when substantial funds were raised for Honor Flight Arizona.
Because of Fountain of the Sun’s support of the Honor Flights, Suzanne Nielsen, a member of the Board of Directors, who lives in Gilbert, requested two WWII veterans be honored guests of post #39 for the parade. Jim Reinig – US Navy and myself, Robert W Bunke – US Marine Corps, were selected to be the honorees. We were not selected because of heroics, but rather because of availability and because we made the Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C. Jim Reinig made the flight in March of 2014 and I made the flight in April of 2014.
On Saturday morning, November 22 at 6:15 a.m. we went to Gilbert, AZ. As we approached Gilbert Road, which was blocked off for the parade, we were met by Suzanne Nielsen, who directed us across the blocked off road and accompanied us to breakfast at the Legion Post. As the parade started, we were escorted to reserved seats on the parade route with a red carpet under our chairs. We were each given a beautiful blanket with WWII Veteran embroidered on it. As the parade passed by the Honor Guard stopped in front of us and presented a flag to each of us.
To be honored and treated with such outstanding respect and kindness was truly humbling, and at the same time one in which it was impossible to not be filled with a lot of personal pride. The years have taken their roll and it won’t be too many years when there will be no more WWII Veterans. To be honored and remembered in such a way was fulfillment of the old saying following the attack on Pearl Harbor “Lest We Forget.”
America sometimes does forget that it takes the Constant Surveillance of its principals and willingness to abide by the Constitution which has been our foundation since its adoption. While we all hate war, it is simply a fact of life that a Nation has to protect its people from its enemies. If that means war, we need that willing force of men and women who ultimately are referred to as Veterans. Since its inception, America has had that powerful force, willing to do what was necessary to provide that protection. If this had not been so, this Nation would no longer be free.
Honoring and remembering these veterans is merely saying “thank you for your service.” Every one of these veterans had to raise his or her right hand and make that solemn oath that they would do what had to be done, even if it took their life. They should be remembered for being our guardians. When the next “Night to be Remember” takes place, be willing to participate. It is really worthwhile and appreciated by all the Veterans.