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Marysville parade is celebration of life and country
When asked what Veterans Day means to a veteran like himself, Phillip Johnson of Sutter had to take a long, thoughtful pause on Sunday.
"I've never really thought about it," said Johnson, a US Army veteran of the Vietnam War, moments before he participated in the annual Veterans Day parade in Marysville as the pilot of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. "I would say it's just a celebration of life, a celebration of country and honor and duty."
Mirroring Johnson, those parading in cool but clear weather Sunday morning were about action more than words, from Beale Air Force Base enlistees marching in formation to high school bands banging drums in time.
Parade watchers on the sidewalks along D Street mirrored them for activity, whether it was vigorously waving small American flags or youngsters scrambling after candy scattered by seemingly every other group, if they weren't thanking a vet watching the parade.
After a veterans group passed and a regular participant of vintage Ford Model "A" cars from Sutter began to trundle up the street, Danielle Hall, 20, turned to a companion with some effusive praise.
"I loooove par-ADES!" she said before giving him a kiss. A Marysville resident who is stationed at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Hall said a Veterans Day parade goes even further for her.
"I really like the military influence, the participation," she said. "It makes you realize a lot more people serve than you expect."
Sunday's parade had plenty of examples of veterans both recent and past, with Beale's representation matched by the Moose Lodge group that biker Johnson rode in, veterans advocacy groups and others.
Art Rodda, a Sutter resident and a survivor of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor nearly 71 years ago, chuckled when asked how many such parades he had been a part of.
"I've lost count," said Rodda, a 91-year-old US Navy veteran. But he said he still remembered the shocking sight on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, as he and fellow sailors assembled on the deck of the USS Nevada and saw a Japanese fighter plane launch torpedoes at another battleship.
"They flew so low you could see their faces," he said. "We had no warning of any sort."
With so many smiles and hearty waves, conflicts seemed a long ways away Sunday. But there were a few moments of lighthearted incongruity to remind people this was a parade, not a funereal affair.
A truck painted in candy-apple red bore signs declaring, "The 49ers support the troops," though the football team was nowhere in sight. And a few moments later, a black van painted with yellow trim featured Batman riding shotgun, with no explanation at all.
As she stood a bit back from the four-deep crowds on the parade's edges, Yuba City resident Nancy Stromer enjoyed the day quietly, with smiles and waves.
Several family members, including her brother, served in the military, she said, so Veterans Day was significant to her and to them.
"To these people, it means a lot," she said, recalling how her brother, a World War II veteran, flew a flag for his Army division, the 101st Airborne, on only a few days each year.
Veterans Day was one of them. Actions, not words.
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.