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Annual Wyoming Valley parade honors veterans

WILKES-BARRE — All was quiet on Public Square on Sunday afternoon as parade goers waited for the 78th annual Wyoming Valley Veterans Day parade to begin.

Doreen Schutz, of Wilkes-Barre, arrived early with her husband and spent some time enjoying the weather.

“It’s a beautiful day today for the parade,” Schutz said. “It’s important to support our military.”

Schutz, who tries to come to the parade every year, said that she loves seeing the enthusiasm for the military among the many parade goers.

It wasn’t long before sirens could be heard from across the river, signaling the beginning of the procession’s trek across the Market Street Bridge.

The parade stepped off just after 2 p.m., with the procession making its way from Wyoming Avenue and Market Street in Kingston and into downtown Wilkes-Barre.

Spectators waving American flags lined the curb as people of all ages gathered for the beloved yearly tradition.

This year’s theme was “Honoring Korean War Veterans,” commemorating the 7oth anniversary of the Korean War Armistice.

Leading the parade was grand marshal Col. Stacy Garrity, state treasurer and a retired veteran of the U.S Army Reserves.

Garrity was previously chosen in 2021 as the parade’s Outstanding Veteran Award recipient, given out by the parade committee to an exemplary member of the veteran community.

Willis Ide, a U.S Army Veteran of World War II, received that honor this year.

Jayme Kirschner and her son Jacob, 9, both of Nanticoke, attended the parade for the first time this year and with for a very special reason.

“My oldest son won the essay contest with the veterans. He and his dad are walking in the parade,” Kirschner said.

Kirschner said that Giovanni, 11, was very excited to get to be a part of it all.

“He gets to hand out flags as they walk,” she said, smiling.

Jessica and Kevin Davis, along with their daughter, Carleigh, 3, were also first-time parade goers.

“It’s very important to pass along the traditions and the history and everything that goes along with it,” she said.

Although it was a day reserved for remembering and honoring the past, present-day tensions proved impossible to ignore, as pro-Palestinian protesters made their voices heard as the parade marched around the square.

“It wasn’t our original intention to come through, but it just kinda of happened in the moment,” said Mike Birillo, of Scranton.

He was one of several protesters who gathered earlier in the day at the Stegmaier Building on the corner of East Market Street. According to Birillo, they were heading back to their cars when they decided to stop at the parade.

“We just wanted to show some support for Palestine,” he said.

While several arguments did erupt between protesters and parade goers, who saw their presence as disrespectful, things calmed down as the protesters disbursed toward the end of the parade.

When it was over, Garrity shared her thoughts on the incredible honor of serving as grand marshal.

“Anything I can do to honor my fellow veterans and thank them for their service,” she said.

She was especially happy to be honoring veterans of the Korean War.

“That’s the Forgotten War, so I feel it’s so important to thank our veterans for their service.”