“A crowd of hundreds came out Sunday in Montpelier to honor veterans as the Veterans Day parade, featuring local school bands and veterans from wars past and present, made its way down Main Street and then past the Capitol on State Street.”
I wish I could write that sentence about Montpelier’s Veterans Day observances, held yesterday, but I can’t. And I wouldn’t have been able to do so in all of the years I’ve covered Montpelier’s parade on Veterans Day, going back to the late 1990s.
For the third year running, Betty Fitzgerald and her granddaughter, Courtney Scholtz, added a fourth wreath to three others traditionally placed at the war monument in front of the high school, to honor Fitzgerald’s late husband, who died heroically in a U.S. Navy rescue mission in Vietnam, and posthumously was honored with the naming of the USS Fitzgerald.
Wreaths also were placed Sunday in honor of the USS Montpelier, and the local VFW Post 792 and American Legion Post 3 each added their own wreaths to the base of the monument. Montpelier Mayor John Hollar attended but did not address the small crowd.
I can say that the smattering of folks who waited on the sidewalks of State and Main showed their respect on Sunday. And I can attest to the sincerity and solemnity of the roughly two dozen people who participated in a ceremony after the parade at the Capital City’s war monument.
Despite the dedication shown by a few, Montpelier’s event this year, as in past years, lacked the critical mass of participants and organized visual spectacle to bring many to the sidewalks of the Veterans Day parade route.
What has clearly been missing in Montpelier’s Veterans Day observances for many years is any notable representation of the greater Montpelier community, save the reliable presence of Montpelier’s mayor. No local school bands participate. Some years, I have seen a fire engine or two in the parade, but not this year.
Even the military presence has been anemic. No active military contingent in the parade; no obvious sign of the National Guard. This, despite the fact that Montpelier is the Capital City, the nation is at war in Afghanistan, and the state has seen its citizen soldiers and airmen deployed repeatedly to combat zones in recent years.
Sunday’s parade in Montpelier consisted entirely of three color guards, Hollar, and a vintage military vehicle driven by Joe Illuzzi of Barre, a member of the Green Mountain Military Vehicles Club. Joe said his dad, Vince Illuzzi Sr., 92, was unable to attend for the first time in about 60 years due to health reasons.
Willy McManis of Montpelier, a 20-year Navy veteran, said he came to fill out the American Legion Post 3 color guard when it became clear it was undermanned. He lacked the silver helmet and uniform, wearing instead an outback-style hat and long coat, but maintaining the stiff attention required of the post.
My own thanks go out to those veterans and others who came out Sunday in Montpelier to pay their respects to the sacrifice and service of our veterans, no matter the politics of war. I only wish they had been joined by more people than you’ll see waiting in line for TVs on Black Friday.
Photos and text by Stefan HardMORE IN Central Vermont
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