WATSONVILLE—With police vehicles leading the way—their emergency lights flashing bright in the late-morning sun—a squad of Boy Scouts, U.S. Naval Sea Cadets and military veterans marched down East Lake Avenue Friday to kick off Watsonville’s annual Veterans Day ceremony.
The parade ended at the Henry J. Mello Center—where this year’s ceremony took place—having moved up the street from the Veterans Memorial Building.
Originally called Armistice Day, changed in 1958 to Veterans Day by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the holiday marks the cessation of hostilities between Germany and the allied nations on Nov. 11, 1918.
“To those who have protected our country and protected our freedom, especially those who paid the ultimate price, I want to give my personal thanks,” said Watsonville Mayor Ari Parker, one of a handful of speakers who addressed the crowd of roughly 200 people who attended the ceremony.
The ceremony was highlighted by the Watsonville Community Band, which has been participating in the event for around 20 years.
“Our first interest is being civically-minded,” said Director Brad Gonroos. “We’re supported by the community of Watsonville, and there is an important dynamic of giving it back, and who better to give it back to than the veterans.”
U.S. Army veteran Harry Wiggins, who helps organize the annual Veterans Day event, said that honoring WWII veterans is all the more important, as the United States Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that all veterans from that war will be gone by 2034.
“That’s a grim thing to think about,” he said.
The end of the ceremony was marked by a short honor for Wiggins, who spent 24 years in active duty, including two tours of duty in the Vietnam War.
“This is a vet who encourages us to appreciate all vets,” Parker said.