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Peace group OK’d to march in Auburn Veterans Day parade

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Fresh from a Veterans Day scuffle last year that resulted in punches thrown, Veterans for Peace is being allowed to march in Wednesday’s parade. The anti-war veterans group has been given a begrudging blessing by the parade’s organizing committee. Legion Post No. 79 Commander Earl Montgomery, the parade director, said the parade committee decided in a close vote to accept the Veterans for Peace application. “There are always going to be dissenting votes,” Montgomery said. “There are outside groups who say we shouldn’t do it. We’ll take some heat for this. But most of our veterans fought for equal rights – including the right to protest.” Carroll Nast, president of the 47-member Veterans For Peace Gold Country chapter, said a letter of support from Auburn Mayor Mike Holmes likely played a major role in swaying the committee to allow his group into the parade. “I wasn’t optimistic,” Nast said. “But Veterans For Peace exemplifies the spirit and letter of the 1938 legislation creating Armistice Day – now known as Veterans Day.” After last year’s scuffle, Montgomery said the veterans peace group tried to sneak into a parade that organizers were trying to keep protest-free by not registering in advance. Nast vehemently disagrees with that characterization, saying that the group was within the rules and registered that morning to march. Their presence precipitated a brouhaha over whether the organization could take part and carry a banner. In the ensuing showdown on Lincoln Way, a 70-year-old Veterans for Peace member was punched twice in the head after a tug-of-war over a sign Montgomery wanted to confiscate. Montgomery said he was taunted by the group and had his hat swatted from his head. Nast, who marched with five other veterans, said the group was not taking part in the parade as an anti-war protest and the disputed sign showed only the “veteransforpeace.com” Web site and a dove symbol. The group will be marching with the same sign. “We’re going to walk down the street, smile at the crowd and wave,” Nast said. But the group also will be bracing for protests from spectators. Nast said he has talked with Auburn Police about safety and was told officers would be along the parade route. Dave Chaddock, a sixth-generation Auburn resident whose son is in the Army National Guard, said he’ll protest by turning his back on the group as it marches past. And he’s encouraging others to do likewise. Chaddock said some of the Veterans for Peace members are not veterans and even draft dodgers, from what he has read. “Anything that would remotely desecrate the memory of fallen soldiers or any soldier who has served is absolutely terrible,” he said. Larry Smith, a Veterans for Peace member who doesn’t plan to march in the parade, said that he sees part of the problems the group has had with the parade is a Legion influence that tries to dominate with its own viewpoints. “It’s shameful when veterans organizations try to co-opt veterans to further their own point of view,” Smith said. It doesn’t surprise Smith that the issue of the peace organization’s presence in the parade has been heated. “A lot of people in Auburn have very short fuses,” he said. “They love to generate heat but not a lot of light.” Nast said the six Veterans For Peace members taking part in last year’s parade were veterans. The group also allows non-military members to belong as associates and Nast said he has seen no regulation why they wouldn’t be allowed to march too. With Boy Scouts and high school marching bands taking part, it would be wrong to exclude some non-veterans while allowing others to march, he said. -------------------------------- Auburn’s Veterans Day Parade Start time: 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11 Parade route: Start at Lincoln Way and Cleveland Avenue in Downtown Auburn. Travel along Lincoln Way and then High Street. End at National Guard Armory at the Gold Country Fairgrounds. -------------------------------- What is Veterans for Peace? -A national organization founded in 1985 -The group has 144 chapters -Includes men and women veterans of war and non-war years spanning the Spanish Civil War of 1936 to 1939, World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf and Iraq wars “as well as other conflicts.” -Veterans for Peace is an official non-governmental organization represented at the UN -Quote: “Our collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent. Other means of problem-solving are necessary.” -Non-veterans can join as associate members but have no voting rights Information: Veterans for Peace Web site ------------------------------------ What is the American Legion? -A congressionally-chartered mutual-aid veterans organization founded in 1919 -The organization has nearly three million members in 14,000 posts -Active in politics, it lobbies on behalf of veterans and service members, including support for pension and veterans hospital benefits -Quote: “The preeminent voice for veterans” -Non-veterans can join Sons of the American Legion (open to sons or grandsons of veterans) or the Legion Auxiliary (open to spouses) Information: American Legion Web site --------------------------------------- Fast facts: Auburn Veterans Day parade -Flag-waving fun. 3,000 miniature flags will be available to parade spectators -Home again. Parade theme is “Welcome Home Vietnam Vets” -Honored vet. Grand marshal is Vietnam veteran Dave Chaix, co-founder of Friends of Vinh Son Orphanage in Vietnam -Parade medal. The first 500 veterans participating in the parade receive a commemorative medal -Ceremony to follow. “Proud To Be An American” celebration with music, song and exhibitions will be at end of parade route. “America the Beautiful” by the Placer High School concert orchestra. National anthem by Chanda Eubanks. -Free food. Hotdogs, chips, cookies and soft drinks will be served to parade participants and spectators following the parade -Anniversary event. This year marks the 90th anniversary of the first Veterans Day parade in Auburn in 1919 -Taps on tap. Taps will be played at 11 a.m. at the Auburn Clocktower. There will also be a three-volley rifle salute. - Gus Thomson