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Junior ROTC groups star in 29th annual Vet’s Day parade

On a brilliant, sunny November morning Saturday, the sounds of drums from marching bands, loud horns from military vehicles and applause from onlookers watching the 29th annual Veterans Day parade in downtown Las Vegas seemed to wow Al Foote, a 20-year Army veteran.

“It’s important to remind people of all these young soldiers, and the old soldiers particularly, because it’s Veterans Day, what they did, what they sacrificed, what they’re serving,” he said. “We need not to forget that it’s an important part of our culture, our country, our history.”

The two-hour spectacle down Fourth Street in honor of members — living and dead — of the nation’s service branches had just about everything to expect from a traditional patriotic American parade: retired serviceman in vehicles — walking or in wheelchairs — high school bands, Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps marchers from local high schools, drill teams, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, the Order of the Purple Hearts, American Legion posts and other service groups, a waving Miss Nevada 2023 Taylor Blatchford and decades-old vintage Cadillacs from a prominent local auto dealer.

Heading the parade was Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, inside an open 1960s pink Cadillac lined by American flag bunting, while sitting beside World War II D-Day veteran Onofrio “Nono” Zicari.

Silver hair and shiny domes

A large number of high school Junior ROTC-affiliated troops from many high schools in the Las Vegas Valley also marched Saturday, with up to about 100 kids in uniform per school, perhaps indicating a growing interest in the service.

One of them was Daniel Sanchez, 15, a Rancho High student who wants to enlist as an airman when he’s 18, learn to pilot and refuel aircraft and maybe eventually fly airlines.

“I think people are starting to have more interest in the military because it’s opening up to more different things and maybe some people have family members that were in the military and when they have kids they want them the pursue what they had,” Sanchez said. “ROTC is a really good starting to that.”

Leslye Melgoza, 15, also at Rancho and a Junior ROTC member in the Air Force branch, said those taking part in the military group don’t necessarily intend to enlist.

“Some of us do it sometimes for like the experience,” Melgoza said. “We want to see how other people do it and we want to try it ourselves. When you turn 18, you can be in the military if you want. But it’s just like an open opportunity for many kids. It really just depends on the person.”

Also enjoying the sights was Bart Zabarte, a 90-year-old veteran of the Korean War, who was a rifleman with the U.S.-allied Philippine army that invaded North Korea.

Zabarte, awarded the Purple Heart for a bullet wound to his leg, said the strong turnout of hundreds who came to watch the Las Vegas parade was “because this is a place where a lot of old-timers like me come over to retire and enjoy life.”

“It’s good to see a lot of people with silver hair and shiny domes!” he said while taking off his hat and laughing.

Brent Harris, 75, a veteran and former helicopter pilot in the Army and Coast Guard, whose assignments included the Caribbean and Antarctica, reflected on the significance of attending the parade celebrating the country’s veterans.

“It’s important because you’ve no doubt heard the saying that freedom isn’t free unless you fight for it, if necessary,” he said. “My father did so. He was a World War II veteran, flew bombers over Germany out of England and he lost some of his crew members. So the idea of defending America to me, I try to honor those individually who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country. I figure this is the least I can do to show my support for America’s military.”

Contact Jeff Burbank at jburbank@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0382. Follow @JeffBurbank2 on X.

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