Veterans Day Parade soldiers on despite winter weather
By Samantha Jones
You can rain on their parade but that won’t stop Eureka Springs veterans from honoring those who have served our country. Despite near freezing rain, the Eureka Springs Veterans Day Parade rolled on Monday morning.
Ferguson Stewart, chaplain service officer for American Legion Post 9, said the parade experienced a few setbacks this year. Several groups canceled because of the winter weather forecast, Stewart said, and an Air Force veteran fell right before the parade began. Stewart said that veteran received medical attention, saying she was one of many veterans who came to the parade despite the weather.
“It’s an annual parade for us. We were going to get it done no matter what,” Stewart said. “We were going to make sure that parade was done.”
Stewart has been a member of American Legion Post 9 since he moved to Eureka Springs in 2012. The best part of American Legion, Stewart said, is the camaraderie among veterans.
“It’s with great pride that I serve this group of 80 veterans that have been here since 1919,” Stewart said.
The veterans weren’t the only ones who attended the parade. A small group of spectators gathered downtown to cheer on the veterans walking or riding in the parade.
“It’s great that people remember veterans on this special day,” Stewart said. “We appreciate those that did come out in this harsh weather and we know there’s many more that would be here if the weather was better.”
American Legion member Roy Tronnes said he was initially opposed to having the parade in the weather.
“But I’m glad we did it,” Tronnes said, “because there were still people out on the streets supporting us — not a lot, but there were some and that means a lot.”
Tronnes, who was a combat photographer in the Vietnam War, said he’s lived in Eureka Springs for more than 12 years, saying he’s been a part of American Legion for almost that long. He loves how American Legion helps veterans connect to one another, Tronnes said.
“It’s hard to put into words, but it does mean a lot,” Tronnes said. “Everybody has a similar background and you can talk to them about a lot of things no one else would understand unless they’ve been in the service.”
Fellow Vietnam veteran Gerry Fonseca stood near Basin Park during the parade to cheer on everyone as they rolled past him. Fonseca said he was a top-level scout pilot from 1969 to 1970.
“I’m not a big patriot for that war,” Fonseca said. “What comes to mind is the atrocities. If people would read their history about that, it was just disgusting. I could see all that happening from the treetops.”
Fonseca continued, “I’m not proud of that. What I’m proud of is I did my job and I helped get people back home. I honored the people with me. Our job was to get home.”
Originally from New Orleans, Fonseca moved to Eureka Springs 14 years ago to flee the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. Fonseca said he appreciates how the Eureka Springs community honors veterans.
“Look at how many lives were lost. Look at how many were maimed,” Fonseca said. “Look how many sacrifices were made. To honor the people who put their very lives and limbs on the line is a great thing for the town to do. I appreciate living here.”
He fought for our freedom, Fonseca said, so it’s important to him that everyone, including veterans, is treated fairly.
“We’re not asking for any special treatment, just fair treatment,” Fonseca said. “It means treatment for everyone covered under the laws of this country, that the rights of this country are fair for everybody. There’s so much bigotry and racism going around today. That is not what the great melting pot should be.”
Trans veteran Jessica Porter agreed. Porter served in the Navy from 2004 to 2006, where she felt the camaraderie among veterans.
“The good thing about veterans is a lot of them don’t care if you’re trans,” Porter said. “They still accept you as being a veteran. Trans veterans are veterans too.”
Porter said she appreciated everyone coming to the parade.
“That was very awesome,” Porter said. “It made me feel good.”
Mickey Schneider, who honored her veteran son Jeremy Putts, said she was grateful to see so much support for the veterans.
"Even though Mother Nature chose to challenge us, we met her challenge and had a great parade," Schneider said. "A bit shorter than usual, but still a great Veterans Day Parade!"
Schneider thanked all the restaurants that donated food for the luncheon after the parade. Everyone was invited to eat lunch together at the event, Schneider said.
"I would like to thank those donors, without whom we couldn't properly wrap up our day of honoring the military," Schneider said. "As usual, the little bit of leftover food was split up and delivered to our police and fire department and A Cup of Love Ministry."
Army veteran Marvin Negeleian said it made a big difference to see people come to the parade because this year’s parade honored longtime organizer Sue Moore-Glave, who died earlier this year.
“It was a big honor for her,” Negeleian said, “even though the parade wasn’t as big as we usually have it. It was a good parade.”
It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the community, Negeleian said.
“Thank you for allowing us to do this,” Negeleian said. “It’s our honor and privilege.”
If you’d like to know more about American Legion Post 9, visit www.Facebook.com/American-legion-post-9-Eureka-Springs-133519134063029/.