“So far it’s been wonderful,” said Antioch resident Bruna DelChiaro. “I’m a very patriotic person. I love my country and want to honor these young men that are giving their lives for us. I’m really proud of our mayor (Jim Davis) that he continues with this. I’m happy to see that we keep this day alive. The young people don’t seem to have the patriotism that we oldsters do. And I hope that this kind of brings to mind to them what these young men are doing: they are giving their lives for their freedom.”
Many of the younger kids sitting on the curb seemed more appreciative of the giving of candy occasionally being thrown their way by parade participants. But one dad was observed showing his 4-year-old son how to salute the passing soldiers.
While many vintage cars with roaring engines made the half-mile trek from E Street to the Antioch Marina, the most unusual was a ’55 Chevy displaying the names of 3,578 Vietnam prisoners of war or missing in action, similar to the Vietnam Memorial wall in Washington D.C. Max Loffgren, a twice-wounded Vietnam vet, rebuilt the car in 1993 and has traveled across the country several times displaying it at patriotic events.
“We made it home; these guys did not – and we didn’t want to forget them,” said Loffgren. “Over 600 of these guys came home alive during the course of the war. And today we are still missing 1,734 of them. As a result of the war, a lot of them may have ended up in China, Czechoslovakia, Cuba, any of the communist bloc countries. According to the National League of Families, they think about 100 of these guys may still be alive.”
The parade actually started in the air as a restored Vietnam-era Huey assault helicopter flew over Rivertown containing the grand marshals: Bataan Death March survivor Vincent Silva; Richard Lundin, a major general in the Northern California Army Reserve and Leo Fontana, a World War II veteran.
The parade kicked off on the ground with police motorcycles, a fire truck, color guard and bagpiper followed by Antioch and Oakley City Council members, Antioch school board members and recently elected Congressman John Garamendi. Music was provided by the Antioch, Deer Valley and Liberty high school marching bands.
Watching the festivities near the start of the parade was Antioch resident Julius Benveniste, a vet who was wearing a bronze star cap. He was drafted into the First Cav (as he put it) 8th division in the Korean War in 1951. Like many vets, he doesn’t say much about his service.
“I was young; I was 21 years old,” he said. “It’s good for everybody to go in the service, I think. Besides serving your country, I really became a man instead of a boy. You realize how lucky you are. I was in Korea for the amount of time I needed to be there. I came home. I’m lucky. That’s about it, I guess.”
Loffgren was similarly low-key when asked about his Vietnam experience. “I was in the infantry,” he said. “I was wounded twice, but I made it home just fine and that’s that.” He was more forthcoming on the meaning of Veterans Day. “We would like to thank all of the veterans and the community for their support and to support our military in Afghanistan and Iraq today and all corners of the world. A lot of the troops are in other places that you don’t hear about. And their families miss them. And we want to make sure we honor them and keep them in our prayers.”
The parade’s loudest participants were the abut 100 revving, roaring Patriot Sentinel Riders and other veteran motorcycle groups who provide welcome-home ceremonies for returning soldiers. The festivities wrapped up with four Calvary Temple Saddle Club horse riders and Sheba, a 35-year-old retired horse led on foot.
Those needing another parade fix won’t have to wait long. The annual Holiday DeLites Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony takes place in just three weeks on Dec. 5, traveling along the same route and with many of the same participants.
For a slide show from the parade, click here.