ELKO — The theme of this year’s Armed Forces Day Parade is “Honoring Women Veterans,” and the grand marshal will be U.S. Army veteran Juanita “Billie” Laughlin from Wells.
“It’s a great honor (to be selected as grand marshal),” Laughlin said. “I was just blown away.”
In 1955 at the age of 18, Laughlin decided to join the Army in Spokane, Washington.
“My father and a lot of my uncles had served in the armed forces, and I just decided I would too,” she said.
She went to Fort McClellan, Alabama, for basic training, then California. About 16 months after joining, Laughlin got married. Her husband at the time was on orders to go to Germany, and she was on orders to go to Japan. Instead of splitting up, Laughlin decided to leave the Army.
“I really enjoyed my time,” she said. “In hindsight, I wish I would have stayed in and retired.”
Laughlin said her Army experience helped her grow up and learn from various viewpoints.
“You really become aware of what’s going on in the world,” she said, “because I came from a small town and I was able to meet all kinds of people.”
Laughlin said she hopes residents will take the time to enjoy the parade while considering the great sacrifice members of the armed forces have made in the past and continue to make each day.
“I think that sometimes people tend to forget what our armed forces do for us every day,” she said. “I think they should come and honor the ones who have gone through it and just be thankful that we have those soldiers who serve our country.”
Laughlin graduated from high school in Idaho. She moved to Nevada in the 1980s when she began working in Reno until about 2011 when she moved to Spring Creek and eventually ended up in Wells to be close to family there, she said.
Katie Bryant, POW/MIA Elko Awareness Association public affairs officer, said between 25 and 30 groups or individuals signed up to be in the parade as of Thursday afternoon.
The parade begins at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The new parade route, which was altered by the Elko City Council in March, begins at the 600 block of Commercial Street. The parade will go north on Fourth Street instead of Third Street. The route continues east on Idaho Street and ends at 11th Street.