Dayton VA honors veterans with parade for first time in years

Spectators lined the route as the region experienced its first snowfall of the season.

Veterans and supporters braved brisk temperatures Saturday to attend the Dayton VA Medical Center’s revived Veterans Day parade held on the VA campus.

Saturday’s cold front — which brought with it the area’s first snowfall of the season — did not deter attendees, who lined Kentucky Avenue and cheered as the parade passed by. Veterans of all ages were present, along with family members, loved ones, and members of the community.

Pam Callio has more than 25 years of experience in the Armed Forces, having retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2019. She watched the parade Saturday with her boyfriend, Steve, wrapped in a blanket to keep warm. “I wasn’t expecting this weather, but this is one of those things that I felt was my duty, to come down here and show support,” she said.

The campus hosted a parade marking Veterans Day many years ago and Dayton VA Director Mark Murdock said his team felt it was time to bring the event back.

“We’ve been serving veterans for over 155 years here in Dayton, we were one of the first three original VAs, and we’ve been here longer than Veterans Day has been established,” Murdock said Saturday. “We’re just so grateful to be able to honor veterans in this way and we think there’s no more appropriate place than the Dayton VA.”

Murdock said Veterans Day serves as a day to memorialize the freedoms bestowed upon Americans as a result of the sacrifices of those who serve.

“Memorial Day is about death and honoring the dead, but Veterans Day is really about honoring life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” he said.

Kathleen Hayes and Kathy Cunningham met in the mid 1980s while working as combat support nurses in the Army. The two served for decades, having retired after 35 and 26 years, respectively.

Cunningham said combat support nurses step in when troops are deployed. “The active Army would be sent out and we’d go to all the bases and take their places while they went to war,” she said.

Their experiences as support nurses also involved constructing and working within temporary hospitals, Hayes said. “We’d have three days to put up the hospital (equipped with an operating room, pharmacy, and hundreds of beds) in the desert, or wherever, then we were expected to be doctors and nurses,” she said.

Murdock said past Veterans Day celebrations at the VA typically consisted of an event held in the auditorium. Once COVID hit, these celebrations went virtual.

“This year, we were able to do both virtual and in-person,” Murdock said. “Our team did a lot of work to make this come together and we’re grateful for the turnout.”

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