Why we do it

Since purchasing my Jeep five years ago, it has been my privilege to escort many local veterans in area parades. These are great men whom I respect and feel a need to honor while we still can.
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by Steve Stark, photos by Susan Stark

 2017 Emily Day Parade with Sgt. Ralph Yeager (07/15/2017). WWII veteran. 82nd Army Airborne paratrooper. North Africa-Sicily-Normandy (D-Day)-Holland-Belgium (Battle of the Bulge)-Germany. Ralph did it all. What an honor to escort this hero!

2017 Emily Day Parade with Sgt. Ralph Yeager (07/15/2017). WWII veteran. 82nd Army Airborne paratrooper. North Africa-Sicily-Normandy (D-Day)-Holland-Belgium (Battle of the Bulge)-Germany. Ralph did it all. What an honor to escort this hero!

Since purchasing my Jeep five years ago, it has been my privilege to escort many local veterans in area parades. These are great men whom I respect and feel a need to honor while we still can. Sadly, several of the veterans in my photos have recently passed away. Though I never served in the military (it is one of the things I regret most in my life), I decided to serve (or honor) those who HAVE served with these parade honor escorts. My grandfather served in WWI; my father in WWII; several of my uncles and my father-in-law served in the Korean War; and several high school friends served in Vietnam — these service men are all heroes to me.

 Crosby, Minnesota, 2014. Escorting WWII Veterans Carl Perpich, Ken Maddux, and Jake Ravnik

Crosby, Minnesota, 2014. Escorting WWII Veterans Carl Perpich, Ken Maddux, and Jake Ravnik

PREPARING THE JEEP

My Jeep is a 1955 M38A1 and was in relatively good condition when I purchased it five years ago. I did do some painting, engine work (new head gasket), and replaced some civilian parts with correct military parts. The addition of the “Ma Deuce” (M2HB Browning machine gun) not only added “the coolness factor,” the gun also gives older veterans something to hold on to while they navigate themselves into that tiny rear seat! I always bring a 3-step folding ladder with wide steps and hand grips to make it easier for the elderly veterans to climb in and out of the jeep safely.

“We have faith that future generations will know here, in the middle of the twentieth century, there came a time when men of good will found a way to unite, and produce, and fight to destroy the forces of ignorance, and intolerance, and slavery, and war.”
— President Franklin D Roosevelt, February 12, 1943

 Pequot Lakes 2018 July 4th Parade. Vietnam Vet John Warren (2 Purple Hearts) and Cold War Submariner John Archambo.

Pequot Lakes 2018 July 4th Parade. Vietnam Vet John Warren (2 Purple Hearts) and Cold War Submariner John Archambo.

TAKING A RIDE

The local VFW or American Legion Posts are invited to determine who they would like to honor in each parade. During the staging time prior to the parade, it has been my great privilege to hear these veterans recount stories of D-Day, Market Garden, the Battle of Chosin, the Bataan Death March, the Battle of Iwo Jima, the 10th Mountain Division, and liberating Nazi concentration camps. How wonderful to hear Marines joking with sailors and to be able to hear firsthand accounts of the experiences of a submariner, a chopper pilot, paratroopers as well as the double- and triple-Purple Heart recipients. It has been my experience that the veterans have really enjoyed and appreciated this special recognition. In all of the parades, crowds have stood and cheered as we drove past. People from the crowd have even run out and up to the jeep to shake the hands of the veterans. A few even get hugs and kisses.

Of course, I volunteer to do this. These veterans have so honorably and faithfully served us. Not only is it my obligation to serve them, it is my honor and my privilege to do so. I am in awe of these heroes.

 McGregor, Minnesota, 2018 Wild Rice Days Parade. Korea War Vets: Herm and Harry Ekelund.

McGregor, Minnesota, 2018 Wild Rice Days Parade. Korea War Vets: Herm and Harry Ekelund.

 Nisswa, Minnesota, 2018 July 4th Parade. Korea War Vets Leroy Nordby and Bill Marshall with Vietnam Vet, Jim Starkey.

Nisswa, Minnesota, 2018 July 4th Parade. Korea War Vets Leroy Nordby and Bill Marshall with Vietnam Vet, Jim Starkey.

 Backus, Minn., 2018 Cornfest Parade. Escorting triple Purple Heart recipient Tex Stafford with the Jenkins VFW float in tow. Photo by Amy Maus

Backus, Minn., 2018 Cornfest Parade. Escorting triple Purple Heart recipient Tex Stafford with the Jenkins VFW float in tow. Photo by Amy Maus

 2017 Grand Rapids Tall Timber Days Parade.-Escorting WWII veterans Warren Kirsch and Art Fleischhackker. America’s Greatest Generation!

2017 Grand Rapids Tall Timber Days Parade.-Escorting WWII veterans Warren Kirsch and Art Fleischhackker. America’s Greatest Generation!

 Crosby, Minnesota, 2017 Parade. Escorting WWII veterans Earl Bedard, John Deblock, and Ken Maddux.

Crosby, Minnesota, 2017 Parade. Escorting WWII veterans Earl Bedard, John Deblock, and Ken Maddux.

 Brainerd, Minn., 2017 Parade. Riding shotgun in the front seat is WWII veteran and Bataan Death March survivor Walt Straka. Walt endured the gruesome 60-plus mile march in which thousands of other soldiers died along the way at the hands of the Japanese army. In back is Ralph Yeager, an 82nd Airborne veteran of North Africa, Sicily, Normandy, and Battle of the Bulge. He is sitting next to Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient, Steve Rosenow. He is a retired Veterans Service officer and is active in the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

Brainerd, Minn., 2017 Parade. Riding shotgun in the front seat is WWII veteran and Bataan Death March survivor Walt Straka. Walt endured the gruesome 60-plus mile march in which thousands of other soldiers died along the way at the hands of the Japanese army. In back is Ralph Yeager, an 82nd Airborne veteran of North Africa, Sicily, Normandy, and Battle of the Bulge. He is sitting next to Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient, Steve Rosenow. He is a retired Veterans Service officer and is active in the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

 Crosby, Minnesota, 2017 Parade. Escorting WWII veterans Earl Bedard, John Deblock, and Ken Maddux.

Crosby, Minnesota, 2017 Parade. Escorting WWII veterans Earl Bedard, John Deblock, and Ken Maddux.

 Pine River, Minnesota, 2016 Parade. Escorting WWII Veteran Howard Delk.

Pine River, Minnesota, 2016 Parade. Escorting WWII Veteran Howard Delk.

 Emily Days, Minnesota, 2016 Parade. Escorting WWII Veteran Stan Blaisdell with our State Senator, Carrie Ruud.

Emily Days, Minnesota, 2016 Parade. Escorting WWII Veteran Stan Blaisdell with our State Senator, Carrie Ruud.

 Pequot Lakes , Minnesota, 2016 Parade. Escorting WWII Veterans Emery Nelson and Wayne Leek.

Pequot Lakes , Minnesota, 2016 Parade. Escorting WWII Veterans Emery Nelson and Wayne Leek.

 Nisswa , Minnesota, 2016 Parade. Escorting Korea Veterans Bill Marshall, Gene Katz, and Leroy Nordby.

Nisswa , Minnesota, 2016 Parade. Escorting Korea Veterans Bill Marshall, Gene Katz, and Leroy Nordby.

 Brainerd, Minnesota, 2015. Escorting WWII Veterans Walt Straka and Ralph Yeager and Vietnam Veteran, Bill Wroolie. What an honor and privilege it was to share some time with these amazing heroes

Brainerd, Minnesota, 2015. Escorting WWII Veterans Walt Straka and Ralph Yeager and Vietnam Veteran, Bill Wroolie. What an honor and privilege it was to share some time with these amazing heroes

 Crosby, Minnesota, 2015. Escorting WWII Veterans Earl Bedard, John Deblock, and Ken Maddux.

Crosby, Minnesota, 2015. Escorting WWII Veterans Earl Bedard, John Deblock, and Ken Maddux.

 Emily Days Parade, 2015. Escorting WWII Veteran Stan Blaisdell (10th Mountain Division).

Emily Days Parade, 2015. Escorting WWII Veteran Stan Blaisdell (10th Mountain Division).

 Emily Days Parade, 2014. Escorting WWII Veteran Richard Heizen.

Emily Days Parade, 2014. Escorting WWII Veteran Richard Heizen.