Veterans, Cornell ROTC students and Boy Scouts trudged through the rain on Sunday, greeted by a crowd waving American flags as they continued a tradition by celebrating at the Veterans of Foreign Wars building in advance of Veterans Day on Saturday.
Army Lt. Col. David Barber, professor of military science at Cornell, said he brought ROTC students downtown to continue the tradition of marching in the parade with the Ithaca community. Barber said every veteran in the parade felt like a member of his family.
“It’s sort of the handshake between the old veterans and the younger, soon-to-be veterans,” Barber told The Sun. “It motivates the cadets and shows them that it’s a brotherhood-sisterhood type deal that, after you get done with your service, no matter if you do three years or 30 years, that you’ll always have a family away from family in terms of the family that was in uniform.”
Retired Army Cpl. Ron Schaefer, who served from 1963-65, said he a felt a sense of camaraderie among veterans. Veterans Day, he said, is a patriotic celebration and should mean something different to everybody. For him, it’s about connecting with fellow veterans.
“It’s a big connection because we’ve all gone through that same sort of thing, that same training,” Schaefer said. “So that’s why you see so much camaraderie, is because you could be in a group with a [retired member of the Coast Guard], but he still went through a similar thing as you.”
The connections stretch further than between veterans to between veterans and future military members. Barber said it is important for ROTC students to participate in Veteran’s Day events like this because they are interacting with members of their own community.
“It makes them feel [like] part of the military because Cornell is sometimes that bubble,” Barber said. “They’re striving for experiences to try to figure out what the military is like and this is just another one of those things they can put in their backpack and go, ‘I remember how the older veterans came out and supported me as I was walking here.’
“So, maybe it’ll inspire them to support and keep supporting the veterans community once they get out of uniform,” he added.
Karen Oliva and her daughter, Lindsey Oliva, participated in the parade with the Broome County Celtic Pipes and Drums group. Lindsey’s grandfather was a WWII veteran, so the mother-daughter duo wanted to come out and support veterans, despite the dreary weather.
Karen admired the community focus of the event, she said, especially when she saw a little Boy Scout shake a veteran’s hand, “as an honor.”
Ithaca’s VFW and members of the community organized the parade, and the Kappa Sigma fraternity at Ithaca College helped with setup. The fraternity has helped run the Veterans Day parade for three years, its president said.
“These are guys and girls that have fought in wars, risked their lives, done things for people that might not even know what they’ve done for them,” Andy Rossler, Kappa Sigma president said. “So for us to be able to help out and show them that people do recognize what they’ve done and the sacrifices they’ve made is a great cause.”