SAN JOSE -- Veterans dating back to World War II rode through downtown in century-old vehicles to mark Veterans Day on Sunday, as thousands of South Bay residents took a day to honor their local war heroes.
The two-hour parade included veterans more than 100 years old and Girl Scouts in elementary school. There was a 1921 Studebaker and a new Corvette. Some paradegoers donned head-to-toe modern camouflage military gear, and others wore 18th-century Revolutionary War clothes and triangle hats.
During the 11/11 ceremony, which began at 11 a.m., local officials and military leaders at Plaza de Cesar Chavez honored veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And they reminded the crowd that this is the 12th Veterans Day since the post-Sept. 11 wars began -- too long for most in attendance.
"Yes, we will bring the troops home," said parade marshal Paul Zukunft, a vice admiral in the U.S. Coast Guard. "Whether you believe in this war or not, these (people serving in Iraq and Afghanistan) will tell you, to a person, that they are making a difference."
Old Armistice Day
The United Veterans Council of Santa Clara County hosted the 94th annual San Jose parade, one of several events around the Bay Area on Sunday. The event had a regional flare with a Fremont high school marching band, the mayor of Sunnyvale, the vice mayor of Milpitas and county supervisors.
Veterans Day was first called Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I. It was first proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 and became Veterans Day in 1954. There are 2 million veterans living in California.
Hundreds of participants marched the one-mile parade route down Santa Clara Street and swept around onto Market Street. Others rode in dozens of convertibles and old-school vehicles. There were decades-old San Jose police cars, a 1923 San Jose fire truck, camouflage-painted trucks and vehicles fitted with artillery.
Thousands of spectators, including plenty of veterans in military garb, cheered and held signs that read "Bring our troops home" and "We love you grandpa." Others held pictures of local military members who died overseas.
Ed Navarro, 63, made the trip for the parade from Morgan Hill for the first time and liked seeing his fellow veterans.
"I enjoyed the people, the crowd mostly," said Navarro, who was drafted into the Vietnam War in 1969.
U.S. Rep Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, said that since the Sept. 11 attacks, the government has sent 700,000 veterans to college and provided health care to 5 million veterans.
"But there is more to do," Lofgren said. "That is an obligation we cannot turn our backs on."
Contact Mike Rosenberg at 408-920-5705. Follow him at twitter.com/rosenberg17.