Charlotte Richter | Staff Writer
Grand Marshals Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth Commanding General Lt. Gen. Theodore Martin and CAC Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen Helton and honorary grand marshals, the Leavenworth High School Junior ROTC Cavalry Angels, led more than 160 floats through downtown Leavenworth during the 102nd Leavenworth County Veterans Day Parade Nov. 11.
The parade featured a flyover from the 125th Fighter Squadron, Oklahoma Air National Guard of Tulsa, Okla.The theme of the 2021 parade was “Honoring Veterans’ Sacrifices … Physical and Mental.”
Becky Johnson, secretary of the Leavenworth County Veterans Day Parade Committee, said this year the committee’s executive board wanted the theme to be more specific than in previous years.
“Many sacrifices are made by our military members, but two of the most predominant seem to be physical and mental,” Johnson said. “With the rise of suicides among our veterans, the committee finally ended up voting to use ‘Honoring Veterans’ Sacrifices … Physical and Mental.’”
The chosen parade theme sets the tone for the parade and sets a standard in the annual competition for best float. Judges evaluate each float for adherence to the theme, originality, creativity and patriotism, and the top three floats with the most points receive cash prizes.
The Leavenworth American Legion Byron H. Mehl Post and Auxiliary No. 23 float, driven by Commander Ryan Rydalch and Auxilary President Sonia Wiley, won first place. The trucks representing Knight Rider Racing won second place, and the Wreaths Across America Leavenworth National Cemetery – Gold Star Families float, driven by veteran Eric Smith, won third place. Honorable mention was awarded to veteran Ray Johnson riding his 2011 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra Custom. Johnson rebuilt the bike featuring military-related details such as dual chain guns, hand grenades and woodland
Parade spectator John Modinger, associate professor in the Department of Joint, Interagency and Multinational Operations, Command and General Staff
College, said it was good to see so many people out.
According to the Leavenworth County Veterans Day Parade website, the first observance was Nov. 11, 1919, when the city of Leavenworth heard the news of Armistice Day, which marked a year since the end of World War I, and citizens celebrated throughout downtown Leavenworth. The tradition continues today as part of the federal holiday and honors military veterans and current service members.