Local veterans will be honored again in Los Banos on Nov. 4, when the Los Banos Veterans group holds its eighth annual downtown parade beginning at 11 a.m.
The parade will step off near the main announcer’s stand on the corner of J and Sixth Streets, proceed down Sixth Street to I Street, turn left and proceed past the second announcer stand on the corner of I and Fifth Streets, then continue on to conclude at the Veterans Memorial Hall at 615 E St., near the Los Banos Fairgrounds.
As in the past, individuals and families can line the streets the parade traverses and stand or sit in chairs they bring.
The Los Banos Veterans, a unified group that includes the Veterans of Foreign War Post 2487 and American Legion Post 166, began holding a veterans parade in 2014, and they’ve had one every year, except for the COVID years 2020 and 2021.
This year’s theme is “Salute to the Air Force,” which will give special recognition to veterans of the United States Air Force, including many Los Banos residents, like local VFW Post Commander Mike Hughes.
The parade is always held on the first Saturday of November, so as not to conflict with other veterans parades on Nov. 11.
“The veterans parade,” said American Legion Post Commander Alan Cotta, “is one the best and easiest ways for local residents to honor the women and men who have served their country in the military.”
This parade marks the fifth time Los Banos resident and Air Force Veteran Patricia McCoy has been the Chairperson of the Los Banos Veterans Parade. She and the parade committee have been working all year with fundraising, planning and organizing the Nov. 4 event to make this parade, as she said, “one that truly displays a heartfelt appreciation for our veterans.”
In previous years, the Los Banos parades have honored the army, navy and marines or reflected the wars in which veterans have served, including World War II, Korean, Vietnam and Desert Storm conflicts.
“The Los Banos Veterans want to make it completely clear,” said McCoy, “that the parade is to honor all veterans from all the branches, but in keeping with this year’s theme we are especially inviting Air Force veterans to participate.
The Los Banos Veterans have encouraged the schools parade entries to compete in a “Most Patriotic School” contest. One winner from each category–elementary school, junior high school and high school–will be determined by three impartial judges placed randomly along the parade route, McCoy said.
Each winning school will be awarded a perpetual framed flag with a brass plate noting the year and the school’s name and will be presented at the November 15 City Council meeting. The school will get to hang that flag until next year’s Veterans Parade.
“The Los Banos Veterans are excited by the response from those interested in participating in this year’s parade,” McCoy said. “The parade will include veterans, current military personnel and military vehicles.
“We will also have bands and student organizations from a majority, if not all, of our schools. And a giant American flag will be carried by FFA students from both high schools.”
The goal of the Los Banos Veterans Parade is two-fold. “We want to give our community the opportunity to honor our local veterans by showing our appreciation and respect for them,” McCoy said.
“And we want to educate young people that freedom isn’t free; the men and women they see in this parade served their country so others could have the freedoms that they do today.”
Although the deadline for most parade entries and participants has passed, veterans who have not submitted an entry may still do so by Saturday, Oct. 28.
There is an online entry form at Los Banos Veterans website (losbanosveterans.org) under the Veterans Parade tab.
Any veteran who has questions may contact Patricia McCoy (209.587.5033) or Mike Hughes (209.704.5301) or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any veterans unable to walk the route will be provided transportation.
Before the parade the community is also invited to a pancake breakfast sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary from 7 to 10 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial Hall. Tickets are $10, and it is best to pre-purchase tickets; however, they will also be available at the door, and take-out Is available.
Anyone interested in tickets may contact Barbara Cardenas at 209.769.7668 or any other active auxiliary member.
The parade is just one of many activities the Los Banos Veterans do to help their community. They also post over 800 American flags around town on eight specific holidays, provide local scholarships, help the Central Valley Honor Flights, support high school students who attend the yearly Boys State and Girls State conference, perform flag-raising and teach flag etiquette at local schools upon request.
The Los Banos Veterans group meets monthly at the Veterans Hall on the second Tuesday of the month, usually for breakfast starting at 7 a.m., and conducts an official meeting of the local VFW and American Legion posts. They encourage all veterans to come to a meeting and join the group.
(Editor’s note: Two related veterans’ corrections: In last week’s Westside Express Patricia McCoy was incorrectly identified as a “retired veteran of the U.S. Air Force.” She is indeed an Air Force veteran, but not retired. Also, veteran Billy Winch was incorrectly identified in a photo as Billy Rich. The Westside Express regrets the errors.)