ELKO — It was more than a perfect-weather parade.
With a mix of resounding applause and reverent gratitude, local veterans received donations Monday at the ninth annual Veterans Day Parade that will help the VFW Post 2350 keep a cross on the Big E Mountain lit for the holidays.
Grand Marshal and Vietnam veteran Bill Boswell accepted the most recent checks and thanked residents for their support. Boswell also took the opportunity to thank his fellow veterans for their service.
“It means a lot for us to be a part of this community, and it means a lot for us to be here today, to thank our veterans — all veterans, whether you fought in a war or whether you didn’t,” Boswell said over the PA system. “We want to say ‘Thank you’ to them. And to the ones that didn’t make it home, we’re really grateful to their parents for raising their kids to be proud veterans.”
The illuminated cross has been a beacon and mainstay in the community running on 45 years, said VFW Light Committee Chairman Joe Rigsby. The VFW turns on the lights during many holidays throughout the season.
For the last few years, though, the VFW has done labor-intensive wire splicing and bulb replacing just to keep the lights on.
“The whole lighting system is archaic. It’s just done,” Rigsby said. “So we decided that what we’ve got to do is replace the whole thing.”
The VFW was prepared to foot the entire bill for the project, but the community stepped forward. So far, it has raised more than $15,000 in funds, supplies and labor.
Assemblyman John Ellison helped with fundraising, and his business, Ellison Electric, committed to do the electrical work needed to install the lights.
“It’s a small amount compared to what you guys do,” Ellison said to Boswell. “… But we’re behind you and love everything you do for our community.”
At the parade, Grand Knight Choch Goicoechea donated $1,000 on behalf of the Knights of Columbus, as did John Legarza from Legarza Exploration.
Prior donations came from Canyon Construction for $1,000, Weststates Property Management for $1,000 and Elko County for $1,500. TIC Construction purchased the strings of lights — an estimated cost of around $4,000, according to Ellison.
Additional funds came from Dr. Steve Glaser, Mach 4 Construction, Christy Bair, Bailey Homes and former Assemblyman John Carpenter.
Ellison said if the VFW is able to raise $25,000, it can set aside a lump sum to pay for future repairs when the need arises.
The VFW wanted to thank Elko County Sheriff’s Office and Nevada Highway Patrol for keeping an eye on the private property where the E is located, which has been marred by vandals in the past.
To donate, residents can call the VFW Post at 738-7816.
Veterans in attendance at the parade spanned eras, from World War II vet Joaquin Rosado — who watched from the shade of a tree while wearing his six medals — to the most recent servicemen who returned from recent tours in Afghanistan.
The parade gave groups the opportunity to uniquely honor veterans.
On a somber two-part POW/MIA Elko Awareness Association float, a person representing a captured serviceman, flanked by armed guards, sat in a barb-wired prison. That section was followed by another scene: fellow servicemen and family members sitting around a flag-draped casket.
A moment of silence was called as the float stopped in front of the courthouse that even the children who had been clamoring for thrown candy observed.
Local Miss Native American contestant Shelby Williams walked in the parade in support of 100-year-old veteran John Temoke, who fought in World War II. As Temoke’s car stopped at the announcer’s table, she sang an honorary song — two verses in Shoshone and two in Navajo — for all veterans.
Marching bands from Elko and Spring Creek high school played upbeat numbers; the Elko Fire Department hung a massive American flag over Idaho street.
Assistant City Manager Delmo Andreozzi sang the National Anthem.
Commissioner Charlie Myers, who emceed, said this year’s Veterans Day Parade was the largest in its nine year history.
Judging this year’s parade floats were U.S. Marine Corp. Staff Sgt. Jason Newton, who served a tour in Iraq and Afghanistan; U.S. Army Sgt. Aaron Hall, who served two tours in Iraq; U.S. Army Sgt. Mike Silva, who served two tours in Iraq, one tour in Afghanistan and one tour in Desert Storm; U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Joe Castaldo, who served a tour in Iraq; and Tammy Myers of Nevada State Bank.
After the parade, Boswell said he was honored to be picked as grand marshal, and on behalf of the VFW, he said he appreciated all of the donations.
Boswell encouraged younger veterans to join the local post.
“We invite ones with families, too,” he said, “because we have a lot of things for the kids to do.”
For information on the local VFW Post, visit vfwpost2350.org.