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Honoring those who served: Springfield community unites for Veterans Day parade

Families came out to the Illinois Capitol with their American flags ready to honor those who...
Families came out to the Illinois Capitol with their American flags ready to honor those who served our country.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 6:45 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - The cloudy morning didn’t stop people from coming out to celebrate the ninth annual Veterans Day parade in Springfield Thursday. Families came out with their American flags ready to honor those who served the country.

Many were excited to have the parade back for the first time in two years. Unfortunately, a blizzard shut down the event in 2019, and organizers canceled the parade last year due to COVID-19.

There’s something special about seeing marching bands play military ballads and people waving their flags to salute veterans.

“Seeing all of the people out here cheering you on, it kind of chokes you up,” said Army veteran Jim Carroll. “It’s kind of emotional.”

Carroll served in the Army from 1975 to 1986. He marched in the parade to show support for veterans and those currently serving the United States.

Many note that parades are a perfect celebration for Vietnam veterans who never received a warm welcome when they returned home from war. Herb Brust counts himself lucky to be alive because 55,000 servicemen and women didn’t come back.

Brust served as a medic in Vietnam from 1968-1969. He always appreciates when people thank veterans at a restaurant or on Veterans Day.

“That’s a good feeling because we didn’t get that when we came back. We were called baby killers and just killers,” Brust said. “And that’s not the way it should’ve been.”

Brust also wishes more people came out for parades and other celebrations on Veterans Day. He feels a lot has changed in the world because more people supported the armed forces and veterans when he was a kid.

Although, Brust would also like to see Illinois leaders do more to prevent veterans from becoming homeless.

“I think they should make sure that they are taken care of,” Brust said. “There’s a lot of them that are out on the corners begging for money. And that’s not right.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jesse Sullivan also stopped by the parade to meet veterans downtown. Sullivan says Veterans Day is the best time to take a step back and think of the people who sacrificed so much for the country.

“I have so much gratitude in my heart for them,” Sullivan said. “I’m not a veteran. But I was able to serve over in Afghanistan with the Department of Army Civilians. So I was able to serve side-by-side with those brave men and women who were putting their lives on the line for this country.”

Sullivan claimed flying the American flag now has “political connotations.” But, he hates to see it because “everyone should be proud to be Americans.”

“Those who have served overseas, they come back home and they recognize we live in a wonderful, amazing country. We should be so grateful,” Sullivan. “We should be showing the utmost respect for our flag, for those men and women who have served us in the armed forces and also here at home as first responders.”

Vietnam veteran Phil Brown helped organize the Veterans Day Parade and reception at VFW Post 10302. He didn’t participate in parades for years because of the way people treated veterans.

Now, as the Commander of the Interveterans Council of Sangamon County, Brown is happy to educate the public and children about what veterans did to defend the country. He also appreciates the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.

However, Brown says there are always more ways to help those who served.

“The veteran clinic here in Springfield is pitiful. It’s just pitiful. It’s crowded, it’s small,” Brown said. “And we need veterans clinics like they do in Bloomington where they can care for veterans.”

Brown explained the Springfield facility can still see veterans for appointments. But, unfortunately, Brown says they outsource veterans to locations in Danville or St. Louis to get hearing aids or other health care.

Many veterans have seen the level of care change over the years.

Korean War veteran Sam Montalbano, honored as the parade’s grand marshall, is just glad to be here. You would never guess Sam is 92 because he’s still involved in several organizations helping veterans today.

Several people told me everyone should want to be more like Sam.

“All of these people are doing all this stuff today. So it’s kind of heartwarming,” Montalbano said. “I just didn’t know what to say. But it’s a good feeling.”

Montalbano says it’s important to thank veterans for their service. However, he argues people should also take some time to truly understand what they gave for the country.

“What are we here for? We’re here to remember,” Montalbano added.

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