Marilyn Harris, the commander of the American Legion in Fullerton, spoke at the City Council meeting on November 7. She welcomed the council and the public to participate in the 36th annual Veterans Day ceremony on Saturday, 11 o’clock at the Hillcrest Park great lawn and fountain.
“Unfortunately, we will not have a parade this year. That is not what the Committee wanted to happen,” said Harris.
The Veterans Day event was begun and hosted by the Fullerton Emblem Club in 1988. In 1999, due to public demand, the American Legion Post and the Fullerton Veterans of Foreign Wars agreed to coordinate the event and have a parade as a joint venture. The City became a co-sponsor with limitations on the parade size to avoid the need for the full closure of Harbor Blvd. We agreed to keep it small with only veterans, VIPs, a band, and the five JROTC units from the High School District.
In the past, we included a few vehicles for disabled veterans to participate in the parade. That ended when the military restricted the use of their vehicles. We built safety protocols with all participants into our program with student leadership contracts and an in-depth look at risk assessment for the total event. “Our Risk Manager does Risk Management for a very large Army Reserve unit. He is well qualified,” said Harris.
Last year, about three weeks before Veterans Day, the instructors informed me that the district would enforce the physical athletic requirements. They were worried about whether they had time and the families had the money to meet that requirement. Only those who met the requirements could participate. One week out, Fullerton Police LT Bogarts informed Marilyn Harris that the students would not be marching but could have formations on the field due to a District decision.
“As you probably noticed, our formations were smaller than usual. Only two students were there instead of 300-400 students from Troy High School. As a mother, my heart broke for those two students,” said Harris.
In May, Marilyn Harris approached the Troy principal at our annual scholarship event with them to see if this year would be different. He said no. Over the summer, Marilyn Harris asked Mayor Pro Tem Whitaker for assistance. After discussing the issues, he said that he was assured that each principal could decide whether to participate in the parade.
At the end of September, Marilyn Harris was told a meeting of the senior instructors had happened and that none of them would be marching. That meant no band. Harris informed Mayor Pro Tem Whitaker that it looked like things had changed. Having had no direct contact with the district about their safety concerns, she called and asked to speak to the high school superintendent. She has still not talked to District leadership.
Due to these factors, the Veterans Day Committee decided that it would not be practical to use city assets to have them support a parade for such a small group of people and no band. The committee leadership’s decision was not to have the formations this year.
“For over 20 years, we have had no problem using the rolling closure process. We are greatly disappointed that the School District leadership has taken this hard line, forcing us to cancel the parade. We hope that they will reconsider next year. We have always intended to have a multi-generational event. We hope they will change direction in the future,” said Harris.