The inaugural Maui Veterans Parade to be held the day before Veterans Day on Nov. 10 will give veterans a chance to walk "puffed up with pride" while the community recognizes their sacrifice for country, said an organizer of the event.
Ed Gazmen said Monday that the parade will begin at Keopuolani Park near the Maui Family YMCA, proceed down Kanaloa Avenue, turn onto Halia Nakoa Street and end in the War Memorial Gym parking lot.
The half-mile-long parade will be followed by a gathering in the soccer field near the parking lot with speeches and entertainment. The parade is set to run from 9 to 11 a.m. with activities at the soccer field going until 2 p.m., he said.
Originally, parade organizers hoped to follow the Fair Parade route from University of Hawaii Maui College to the War Memorial Complex. But that route would have required closing lanes on busy Kaahumanu Avenue.
The less-traveled Kanaloa Avenue and Halia Nakoa Street will be closed for the parade, he said, adding that the route is only a tenth-of-a-mile shorter than the Fair Parade route.
A reviewing stand will be put up in front of the War Memorial Stadium section of Kanaloa Avenue. Invitations have been extended to government and military officials.
The goal had been to hold the parade on Veterans Day on Nov. 11, but the Korean War veterans and Marines had commitments on that day, a Sunday, said Gazmen.
"Hopefully, next year we will do it on the real day," he said.
Nearly 70 organizations, mostly veterans groups, have been extended invitations to participate in the parade, said Gazmen. High school and the military bands also have been invited. Parade entrants are encouraged to build floats. American flags will be passed out to parade watchers.
Gazmen is hoping for about 2,000 marchers with veterans from World War II to the current Afghanistan war participating.
Members of the 100th/ 442nd Regimental Combat Team will be the grand marshals of the parade. An open trolley has been secured for these men, in their 90s and late 80s.
Gazmen said he has received verbal approval from the county for permits for the parade and hopes to obtain formal approval in the next couple of days. Once secured, the parade planning committee of the Maui County Veterans Council can begin raising the $40,000 needed, he said. All of the money will be used for the parade and after-parade event for things such as portable toilets and tents.
The parade will be an opportunity for the veterans to "walk down the road and puffed up with pride" as parade watchers honor their service, said Gazmen. Most veterans are humble men who would not bring attention to themselves for their time in the military.
Many are still suffering the effects of war, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, even from the Vietnam War the 1960s and early '70s, Gazmen said. The Vietnam veterans in particular did not receive a hero's welcome upon their return due to the divisive nature of the conflict at home.
"We will force them to be recognized," said Gazmen. "I know deep down they did the best that they could."
For more information about the parade, contact Gazmen at 276-8373.
* Lee Imada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.