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Thousands watch, march in 15th annual Veterans Day parade

Main Street event hosts nearly 100 groups

Several thousand lined Main Street Sunday to watch Pleasanton's 15th Annual Tri-Valley Veterans Day parade while another thousand or so marched, walked or rode in the parade.

The event featured military and veteran color guards, marching bands, a Viet Nam era helicopter, horses, jeeps, Humvees and other military vehicles and many other patriotic units.

The one-hour parade started at the Veterans Memorial Building at Main Street and Old Bernal Avenue where the bands, military vehicles and elected representatives from throughout the area assembled. On the parade reviewing stand in front of the Museum on Main were leaders of local veterans organizations and military reservists.

They included Major General Nick Tooliatos, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, and his wife Joni; Major Tom Gutshall of the U.S. Volunteer Joint Services Command, and Command Sergeant Major Patrick McKie from Camp Park.

Other in the official reviewing group were Joseph Sweeney, the Northern California civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army; David Scott of the New Caledonian Club of San Francisco; Tracey Buescher, co-chair of the Pleasanton Military Families organization; Gene Cota, chief of staff of District 14 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Ronald Parshall, commander of the American Legion, district 10.

The annual parade is hosted by Pleasanton Post 6298 of the VFW and the American Legion's Pleasanton Post 237.

About 100 groups took part in the parade, including color guards from the Coast Guard, American Legion Post 237, Pleasanton Police Department, Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department and the local units from U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard and the Young Marines, a unit from Stockton.

The theme of this year's parade was "Army Strong." And, Army officers and enlisted men and women along with scores of Army vehicles dominated the parade, ranging from the Army's non-commissioned officer academy at Camp Parks to World War II jeeps and a Huey helicopter that was flown in Vietnam.

The 45-member 191st Army band, a reserve unit stationed at Camp Parks, followed the color guards at the start of the parade, with more patriotic music provided during the parade by the Foothill High School marching band, under the direction of Joshua Butterfield and Erik Nishimori, the Ben Ali Shriners pipes and drum unit from Sacramento, and the "Swinging Blue Stars" from the USS Hornet, who sang songs of the 1940s and 1950s.

Army sergeant Mariela Meylan, now retired, who was seriously injured while on duty in Iraq in 2004, served as Grand Marshall of this year's parade. She spent eight months in a coma after the injury and a total of four years in military and Veterans Administration hospitals before returning to her parents' home in Livermore three years ago.

Of course, no parade is truly genuine without politicians, and they filled part of the parade line Sunday. They included Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton) and his wife Mary; State Senators Ellen Corbett and Mark DeSaulnier, Alameda County Supervisors Scott Haggerty and Nate Miley, Mayor Tim Sbranti of Dublin, Councilman Newell Arnerich of Danville, Vice Mayor John Marchand of Livermore and Councilman Jerry Thorne of Pleasanton.

Also in the parade and then later as a speaker at the Veterans Day ceremony in the Veterans Memorial Building was Pleasanton Vice Mayor Cheryl Cook-Kallio.

"It is especially my honor to extend a heartfelt thank you from the city of Pleasanton to our veterans organizations that support our Pleasanton tradition by hosting and participating in this ceremony each year with such care and attention to detail," Cook-Kallio, a civic teacher at Irvington High School in Fremont, said.

"Former associate Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter once said that "in a democracy, the highest office is the office of citizen,'" she said.

Cook-Kallio continued:

"While reflecting on those words and the gratitude I feel for the work of those of you who protect that democracy and the families who support you while you serve, I spent time examining what this country means to me and why I have spent my life trying to instill love and respect for our country and the Constitution in the young people whom I teach.

"I thought about the American Dream. It certainly is a concept in which my family believes. With that dream comes responsibility. I thought about American exceptionalism. The uniqueness of our government, the uniqueness of our culture and society, is something recognized around the world.

"The diverse but unified America Alexis de Toqueville described in the 1820s was due to enlightened self interest, that type of civic virtue that recognized that improving one's self improves the community in which we live. It is that civic virtue that defines American exceptionalism. The uniqueness of this country exists because of the men and women who have been willing to fight to preserve our liberty and our way of life.

"It is fitting that we all come together as a community to honor our veterans. Year after year, while participating in this wonderful event, I have seen our main street lined with families, children waving flags, people yelling thank you to our veterans. It helps ensure that we never forget the sacrifice.

"I heard Tom Brokaw talking about his new book, 'The time of Our Lives.' In it he talks about being grateful for the 1%. I thought I had misheard him so I began to pay closer attention. He wasn't talking about the 1% we are hearing about daily on the news, not the 1% of the richest Americans. He was talking about the 1% who carry the heavy burden, that serve in our armed forces, so that the rest of us can live the American Dream and enjoy American exceptionalism.

"Even in difficult times, like the ones we are living through now, we must not forget where we have been, what we have now and those men and women, like you and you and you, and those sitting behind me on stage have done to make it possible for all of us to live in freedom."

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