The theme of this year’s parade was Emblems of the Land. As expected, there were many red, white, and blue banners, streamers, and American flags on every entry, along with a generous amount of Uncle Sams, bald eagles, and Lady Liberties. There was even one impressive salute to the Liberty Bell which was entered for non-judging by the Republicans for Veterans. However, as one of the judges pointed out, there were plenty of other forms of Americana that could also qualify when deciding Best of Theme trophy.
Just a few include the Wells Fargo Stagecoach, Western cowboys, Henry Ford’s Model A, scouting, and “mom, apple pie, and Chevrolet” – and they were all present in the parade. So there were many outstanding and worthy choices from which to choose, but the solemn and emotional tribute from the Prayer Angels for the Military reminded everyone that there would be no Americana and no Fourth of July Parade if not for the young men and women who have fought for our liberties and values.
It was impossible to keep from choking up when the banners depicting eleven of the SCV’s post 9-11 warriors, who had made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, were carried down the streets as part of the Prayer Angels’ entry – the entry that ultimately earned the Best of Theme trophy.
The Prayer Angels for the Military began informally with a group of local women, who got together to hold prayer vigils for their children and husbands serving in the military. The group grew, as neighbors and citizens asked them to include other service members in their prayers and support. That led to an official founding in July of 2004. Today 25 members, including wives, parents, family, and friends of veterans and current military personnel, meet on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month to pray, make cards, write letters, and schedule care packages for the troops.
The banners that the members carried in this year’s parad e included: Army SSGT Brian Cody Prosser, Army PFC Stephen E. Wyatt, USMC LCpl Richard P. Slocum, Army PFC Cole W. Larsen, Army SPC Jose Ricardo Flores-Mejia, Army SGT Dennis L. Sellen, Jr., Army Specialist Rudy A. Acosta, Army SPC Stephen E. Colley, Army SCT John M. Conant, Army SGT Ian Timothy D. Gelig, and USMC PFC Jake Suter.
Patriotism, music, high energy, and extraordinary decorations earned Hart High’s “Home of the Brave” the Sweepstakes Award; Best Decorated Award went to the Fil-Am Association of SCV; and Grand Equestrian Trophy was taken home by E.T.I. Corral 21.
Two extraordinary sights and sounds at this year’s parade were provided by the All SCV High School Band and Colorguard, which brought the spectators to their feet with their rousing patriotic melodies; and the P-51 Mustang that flew over the parade route to kick off the festivities. The gleaming silver symbol of America’s World War II air superiority flew so low that the backwash sent the judges’ score sheets flying off the podium.
Checking with the SCV Historical Society’s webpage, the parade has been a mainstay of the valley’s Fourth of July celebrations for 75 years. It has had its ups and downs, as well as a number of different sponsoring organizations. Historical Society guru Leon Worden points to the 1955 parade when sponsorship completely fell by the wayside. A stalwart group of 14 people took up the challenge and staged their own impromptu march down San Fernando Road (now Main Street). Included in the group were Fred Trueblood, Jr. and his English bride Bobbie. Though British by birth, Bobbie became one of our valley’s most patriotic citizens. Besides being the backbone of the local Women’s Republican Club, she was a long-standing participant in the parades (the Society’s website credits her with 50 consecutive appearances).
In 1973, Bobbie organized her own “protest” parade when the current sponsor, the NSV Chamber of Commerce, decided to hold all Fourth of July festivities on the weekend following the actual Fourth. Insisting that no American patriot would miss observing the real day with a parade, Bobbie vowed to march down Main Street by herself, if need be. By the Wednesday date, about 150 people, dogs, horses, and cars turned out to join Bobbie, including the American Legion Color Guard and Scout Troop and Cub Pack #577.
Loyal friends provided a divan chair for Bobbie to sit on, hefting it on their shoulders to carry her down the parade route. Honoring both her country of origin and her new home, Bobbie waved a small standard with the two countries’ flags (however, the Stars and Stripes flew above the Union Jack).
The most vivid image from that day in my mind was Signal editor Scott Newhall, who left his prosthetic leg at the newspaper’s 6th Street offices, donned his war correspondent’s uniform, picked up a pair of crutches, and marched down the street flanked by two patriots playing a guitar and flute.