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Honoring veterans in style

  • Army National Guardsman pfc. Donovan Taylor marches with the 235th Engineer Company of Petaluma during the Petaluma Veterans Day parade, Monday Nov. 11, 2013. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

Marines from Afghanistan and Iraq marched alongside WWII's Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVE) during Monday's Veterans Day celebration. Petaluma's patriotic parade was the biggest in the North Bay, drawing thousands of spectators who crowded the streets downtown to salute the more than 200 veterans who marched.

“Last year we had 30,000 or 35,000 (spectators),” says Steve Kemmerle, who organized the parade with the American Legion Post 28. “I talked to the vendors and they felt it was bigger this year. There had to be at least 30,000 people in the crowd.”

From the sleek sports cars of the “Vets with Vettes,” to a troupe of actors who recreated the famous Times Square “Victory Kiss,” it was a day to honor all who have served their country at home and abroad. (see more photos on the home page). The Grand Marshals of this year's parade were four of Petaluma's surviving WWII veterans. There was Marine pilot Owen Fredricks; Bruno Lombardi, who served as a tail gunner on a B-17 bomber with the Army Air Corps; Robert Harriott of the 1st Calvary Pacific; and Erv Giacomini, who survived D-Day with the 532nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment.

Petaluma Veterans Day Parade

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“All four were born in Petaluma,” Kemmerle says.

The day included a fly-over by a restored Huey Helicopter, along with three Nanchang war planes and helicopters from the US Coast Guard.

“They do these all free of charge,” Kemmerle says of the aircrafts.

The day ended with speeches from regional and local politicians including Rep. Mike Thompson, Rep. Jared Huffman, Supervisor David Rabbitt and Mayor David Glass.

In the nine years he has been involved with the parade, Kemmerle said he's seen it grown from just 60 veterans and 6,000 onlookers, to the festive event it is today. He's already identified a Grand Marshal for next year's event, a WWII veteran named Ernie Lichau.

(Contact Emily Charrier at emily.charrier@arguscourier.com)

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