Veterans Day parade, ceremony draws large crowd in Downtown Peoria
Service members from all branches of the U.S. gathered Thursday in downtown Peoria for a parade and ceremony in honor of Veteran’s Day.
Several donned jackets or caps indicating wars in which they fought, including the Vietnam War.
The ceremony honored the sacrifices of Peorians on behalf of the armed forces. For example, 211 Peoria County residents died serving in World War I.
The memorial also celebrated the retirement of General William “Robbie” Robertson, a Peoria native who spent 41 years with the U.S. Air Force.
While service men and women often have a “friendly” rivalry between branches, on days like Veterans Day, they come together as one, he said.
“Veterans have a common bond,” he said. “When we all get together, we can all share stories and talk about common things that have happened to us throughout the service. And it's just, it's just a great bond. And it's always there till the day you die.”
Sincere Faith Grider, 14, was one of the youngest people who attended Thursday’s memorial. Wearing a dark blue U.S. Navy sweatshirt, she wrapped an American flag around her back as she listened to the ceremony.
Grider attended the memorial with her mother and sister. She said she has many veterans in her family.
“We're thankful for our veterans and we are honored to be out here. And we just love supporting our country,” she said. “I have always wanted to go into the Navy at a young age. I joined the cadets and I love it.”
Grider encouraged her peers to honor veterans, too.
“They're the ones who died for you, and freedom does not come free,” she said. “It's always got to be paid for. And so before you go outside and act a fool, maybe you should think about that.”
While the memorial honored veterans who paid the “supreme sacrifice,” Robertson encouraged Peorians to support veterans who are still with us today – but may be suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress associated with serving.
“I would just ask people to work with our veterans whenever they can,” he said. “Be patient with them, if they are any of those that have issues, and try to work with them, and get them back into the community. They deserve that. Continue to support your veterans. Continue to support that 1% of the population that serves this country and protects it.”
The annual parade and ceremony are organized by Peoria’s American Legion Post No. 2. Learn more on Facebook.