Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
On Nov. 11, 1919, the headline in the Leavenworth Times read “Business will be suspended in city today, all to join in the Welcome Home Celebration.”
One year after the end of World War I marked the beginning of the annual Armistice Day — later renamed Veterans Day — observance in Leavenworth and the largest parade west of the Mississippi and the oldest continuous parade in the nation.
The 2019 parade Nov. 11 in downtown Leavenworth marked its centennial year.
“(One hundred years) is phenomenal, and it reinforces the character of the people here,” said Brig. Gen. Stephen Michael, Combined Arms Center – Training deputy commanding general. “As far back as you can remember, this community and the people in this area have been supporting the military and supporting soldiers; I think about how many years it has been, and it is really a significant milestone.”
Despite the falling snow and the low temperatures, hundreds of people showed up to celebrate the milestone.
Garrison Commander Col. Harry Hung said he wasn’t surprised at the crowd.
“Even with the snow, even with the cold, even with the ice, it just shows the kind of support, the kind of partnership that this community as well as the larger community and our military community has,” Hung said. “No weather, regardless of what comes our way, will break that partnership, friendship as well as the team that we have here.”
The parade included two grand marshals and one honorary grand marshal.
Grand Marshal retired Army Lt. Col. Crystal Swann Blackdeer served from 1986 to 2007. Her assignments include Iraq, Afghanistan, Italy, Japan, Thailand, Kuwait and multiple locations around the United States.
“It is an honor to represent our brothers and sisters who are still serving and who have served in the past,” Blackdeer said.
Grand Marshal retired Army Sgt. 1st Class James King, a Vietnam veteran, served from 1956 to 1976. In February 1967, he was wounded while on a reconnaissance patrol and spent 16 months in the hospital. This led to him receiving a Silver Star for bravery and a Purple Heart for the wounds he received in combat.
King said it was an honor to be selected.
“I hope we can do (the parade) for another 100 years,” he said.
The honorary grand marshal was the late Patricia Riner, who died April 15, 2019. Riner was an Air Force Vietnam veteran and a retired federal employee at Fort Leavenworth. She was the recipient of the Fort Leavenworth Community Service Award during the 2018 Veterans Day parade.
The parade included many Fort Leavenworth participants, ranging from school children, Boy and Girl Scouts, and various on-post clubs, to an active-duty contingent comprised of the units on post.