hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

November 15, 2012

City should boost its support of Veterans Day Parade

The Haverhill Gazette

---- — John Kazarosian knows the pain of war.

He served with the Army in World War II and was also in the Korean War. He has worked to keep alive the memory and honor of his fellow veterans, both living and deceased.

Kazarosian is a lead organizer of Haverhill’s annual Veterans Day Parade, an event that honors veterans for their sacrifices. The parade is always on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. This year it was last Sunday. (See photos, today’s Spotlight page.)

Besides the pain of war, Kazarosian also knows the disappointment that comes with a sparsely attended Veterans Day Parade. While thousands upon thousands of people line the streets for the Santa Parade each year, the Veterans Day Parade gets a few dozen spectators, maybe a couple of hundred at most.

It’s true that the veterans march is nowhere near as long and doesn’t have close to the number of bells and whistles as the Santa Parade. When St. Nick arrives to usher in the holiday season, the Santa Parade boasts dozens of marching bands and floats, and clowns giving out candy to children who line the streets with their parents. People with homes along the route — from the Bradford Fire Station to the Basiliere Bridge, up Main Street past City Hall and to the VFW — have parties, even cookouts if it’s warm enough. It’s truly a festival atmosphere.

The Veterans Day Parade is limited in the number of participants and its resources. The route is short and simple, about a quarter the length of the Santa Parade. Veterans and dignitaries march from the VFW down Main Street to the Global Peace Monument next to the library and courthouse. There, they have a brief ceremony in honor of veterans before going to the American Legion for a luncheon.

Kazarosian and other organizers of the Veterans Day Parade have said they are hopeful more people will start to attend the parade. It’s not an issue of entertainment, but rather of understanding the sacrifices veterans make and acknowledging it. From those who served in the world wars to the fight against terrorism, they have put their lives on the line for our protection.

Some might argue whether particular wars should be fought, whether the U.S. military belongs in certain countries. But service men and women deserve our respect and thanks for what they give.

That includes attending a parade in their honor, even finding ways to make it a bigger event. Haverhill needs creative ways to lure more people to the parade. Maybe invite school and civic groups to enter floats. Have a competition for people to suggest a theme each year. Do what Amesbury has done and have other events such as monthly breakfasts and lunches to honor veterans and link those events to the parade — possibly through a year-long buildup to the march.

The bottom line is John Kazarosian, his fellow veterans and parade organizers deserve more attention from the community.

A little creativity might go a long way toward making it happen.