Citizens from Manhattan and surrounding communities gathered on Poyntz Avenue on Friday to celebrate the 25th annual Flint Hills Veterans Day Parade and the 100th anniversary of the 1st Infantry Division.
Each year, the parade commemorates the service of community members in all branches of the armed forces and includes entries from local chapters of Kiwanis International, Lions Club International, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Shriners.
The parade featured 98 entries, including the Kansas State University Marching Band and representatives from the Forest Service and the Riley County Fire Department. Other entries in the parade came from outside Manhattan, like the Rock Creek High School Marching Band, Junction City High School Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps drill team, the 1st Infantry Division Band and the Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard.
Veterans Services: More than a common bond
John Ward, a 20-year Army veteran, said he has attended the parade for the last eight years. His wife, who teaches at Lee Elementary School, participates in the parade with her classes each year, Ward said.
Ward said he had no problem with receiving and giving thanks to other veterans.
“[We] wrote a check up to include our lives to defend the country,” Ward said.
Ward said he spent more than 50 months in combat theater during his service in the Army.
Several members of the Fort Riley Garrison attended the parade, including Col. John D. Lawrence and Sgt. Maj. James Collins. Command Maj. Gen. Joseph M. Martin of the 1st Infantry Division was also in attendance.
Manhattan city commissioner Marvin Rodriguez, who attended K-State in the 1960s, said he has attended the parade as both a spectator and participant as far back as 1955, when his family moved to Manhattan. Rodriguez said this year’s parade was the largest.
“It was the largest amount of entries we ever had,” Rodriguez said. “The weather didn’t help, but it was great.”
Entries for the parade were submitted to the Riley County Police Department as early as last spring, Sgt. Pat Tiede said. He said it took several months to prepare for the parade, but only a few minutes to restore traffic back to its normal patterns.
“It’s fantastic; there’s a number of amazing parades that we’re blessed to have here in the community,” Tiede said. “The Veterans Day Parade is the largest in the state of Kansas.”
Representing K-State veterans was the Veterans Student Services Office, which services upwards of 12 to 14 percent of the student population through Veterans Affairs-sponsored programs like the Montgomery GI Bill and Vocational Rehabilitation, which allows veterans to attend college after their service.