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Veterans Day parade draws massive crowd

Army National Guardsman Andrew Byerly carries his four month-old son Hunter as he marches with the 235th Engineer Company in the Petaluma Veterans Day parade, Monday Nov. 11, 2013.

Kent Porter / Press Democrat
Published: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 8:33 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 8:33 a.m.

Erv Giacomini still looks dashing in his olive drab wool uniform, as trim as he was when he joined the Army in 1942.

The Petaluma native, who made four landings on D-Day with the 532nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, stood proud Monday as thousands paid tribute to him and other service members at the Petaluma Veterans Parade.

Giacomini, 88, was one of four World War II veterans from Petaluma who served as grand marshals of the parade, billed as the largest such celebration of its kind north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The three other grand marshals – Petaluma natives Owen Fredricks, a Marine pilot in who also served in Korea; Bruno Lombardi, an Army Air Corps B-17 tail gunner and prisoner of war; and Robert Harriott, 1st Calvary Pacific – led a procession of about 200 entrants in the parade, attended by about 20,000 who lined downtown streets.

Veterans from every armed conflict since then, representing each branch of the military, were represented in a red, white and blue display of patriotism and gratitude for those who serve the country in times of war and peace.

“Thank you! Thank you!” cried out Sharon McNamara and Maureen Hampton, who brought a group of about a dozen residents of Sunrise Assisted Living to watch the parade – including 106-year-old Rhea Grim, who said she particularly liked the riders on horseback.

They cheered a well-choreographed drill team of electric wheelchair- and scooter-riding veterans called “Hill's Angels” from the Veterans Home of Yountville.

The group of 10 wheeled residents performed a variety of drills in formation, including “The Weave,” “Out and About” and “The Snake,” led by activity leaders Janette Eubank and Megan Dozler.

“It's about adaptive leisure,” Eubank said. “It's therapy in a fun way.”

“We're having a blast,” said Air Force veteran Bob Forster, leading the charge with his scooter.

“It's great,” added Merle Keller, who was in the Navy.

Crowds cheered as a team of three warbirds conducted flyovers and a huge Huey helicopter patrolled the route.

Korean War Army veteran Louie Gomez and his daughter, Diana, peered skyward as the planes performed the “missing man formation,” where one pilot peels off in memory of the fallen.

“I'm very grateful to live in this country, where we do this,” he said. “I'm proud to have served my country and I'd do it again.”

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.

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