Leonardtown, MD -- Maryland largest Veteran’s Day parade gets bigger and better every year. The 40th annual Leonardtown parade and ceremony Nov. 11 featured almost 3,000 people walking or riding the parade route and thousands of spectators lining the streets of town.
The parade, which lasted an hour and 45 minutes, featured veterans--Including a bus from Charlotte Hall Veterans Home--and veterans service organizations, first responders, service members, Scouts, school ROTC units and bands, floats, businesses, political organizations and politicians (including Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford), civic organizations, historic sites, motorcycle groups, equestrian units, classic cars and tractors, and entertainers.
Veteran’s Day evolved from Decoration Day which marked the treaty ending World War I that was signed Nov. 11, 1918 at 11:11 a.m. At 11:11 a.m. a World War I biplane flew over the parade.
Announcers for the parade were Leonardtown Mayor Dan Burris, Board of Education member Mary Washington, and Barbara Ives of St. Mary’s Ryken High School.
The lead unit of the parade was the Ridge Lions Club, whose members handed out flags for those along the parade route which started at St. Mary’s Ryken, moved down Fenwick Street, around the square at Washington Avenue to the courthouse parking lot.
At parade’s conclusion, everyone assembled on the town square for the annual ceremony, which includes Veteran’s Day speeches by Leonardtown Elementary School fifth graders. This year representing their class, Bridget Cory, Cal Mattei and Ben Dodge delivered addresses, and were praised by the speakers who followed.
Rutherford brought greetings from Gov. Larry Hogan, who is undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma. “He is doing very well. He is getting stronger every day and he is feeling better every day,” Rutherford said of the governor.
This was Rutherford’s first official visit to Leonardtown. Speaking of the Leonardtown fifth graders, he said, “It’s the community that makes these kids who they are.”
The lieutenant governor spoke of the sacrifices not only of the service members but their families. He said after they return home, the service members “continue to serve. We are all better for that.”
Rutherford said after the ceremony he was going to Charlotte Hall Veterans Home for a tour and to visit his brother-in-law, a Gulf War veteran, who is a resident there.
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot also talked about family, in his case his 93-year-old father, a World War II bomber pilot. “My dad reminds me every day how important it is to care for our veterans.” He said his heart breaks every time he sees a homeless veteran by the side of the road. ”That is completely unacceptable,” he said.
Representative Steny Hoyer noted from the speech of one of the students the quote from the poem “In Flanders Fields,” saying “the torch is ours.” He observed, “We honor those who have served but never let us forget those who are now serving.
“Leonardtown is a very special town,” Hoyer said. “’It’s like thousands and thousands of towns across the country--a snapshot of what makes us special.”
St. Mary’s County Commissioners' President Randy Guy took notice of the families of Army SPC Raymond J. Faulstich, Army Cpl. Matthew P. Wallace, Army Sgt. Ryan Patrick Baumann and Capt. Walter Francis Duke, local heroes who lost their lives in combat. “A veteran is someone who in his life wrote a blank check payable to America,” Guy said.
Leonardtown resident and Patuxent NAS Commanding Officer Capt. Heidi Fleming talked about growing up with her Marine Corps father. Of the veterans, she said, “Every single day they are assuring our freedom is protected.”
Also speaking were State Senator Steve Waugh, delegates Matt Morgan and Deb Rey, and Deputy Director of the Maryland Veteran’s Home Program Michael Farr. Del. Anthony O’Donnell and Maryland Veterans' Affairs Secretary George Owings were at a program at Charlotte Hall Veterans Home. Senator Ben Cardin’s local representative, Sue Kullen, presented greetings from Cardin and Sen. Barbara Mikulski.
Leonardtown Mayor Burris was the Master of Ceremonies. Town Councilman Hayden Hammett sang “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Opening and closing prayers were offered by Rev. David Beaubien of St. Aloysius Church.
After the speeches, the Chopticon High School Marching Band performed an Armed Forces Salute, which was followed by the laying of the wreaths at the town memorial.
After the wreath laying ceremony, Chopticon High School Marching Band Soloist Zachary Brickley performed Taps and Soloist Mike Smith played Amazing Grace.