Dana Hinman, director of administration for the City of Auburn, has attended just about every Auburn Veterans Day Parade in the 49 years since the event’s inception. This Saturday, Hinman will celebrate veterans with the rest of Auburn for the 50th time.
The Auburn event is recognized by both the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Veterans Day National Committee as a regional site for Veterans Day celebrations. This year the city has secured more than 200 groups, bands, and organizations to participate in the parade, not to mention tons of vehicle and aircraft static displays, and a fly-over from a Joint Base Lewis-McChord aircraft.
“We know that this is the flagship event for us, this is what puts Auburn on the map,” Hinman said. “But this is more than just a symbolic event to us, it is how we see ourselves as a city that welcomes veterans with open arms.”
The parade itself runs along Main Street, the route will start at E Street N.E. and it will end outside the Auburn City Hall.
Hinman’s participation in the event has changed over the years. As a child she remembers going to the parade with her family, particularly father, James, who served briefly in the U.S. Air Force.
“When I was a kid my favorite memory was probably also my first memory of the parade,” she said. “My dad had served but my grandpa didn’t, so when the troops came down the street my dad stood up and saluted and my grandpa stood up and took off his hat and I just remember looking at them and thinking this is a big deal.”
As an adult Hinman helps plan and organize the event each year.
“Doing this job reinforces the gravity of the service that was given that was given so freely,” she said. “For a country that has an all-volunteer military I think that we forget to say thank you sometimes. The fact that my city – my hometown where I was born and raised – is doing something that gives the best thank you to them is just so wonderful.”
Kristy Pachciarz, City of Auburn special events coordinator, echoes Hinman’s sentiments about the event.
“It’s incredibly rewarding because I get to be face-to-face with these amazing individuals,” said Pachciarz. “I’m just in awe of these people and I’m so humble that they are here and sharing their time with us because I know everyone is so darn busy these days.”
Hinman credits Pachciarz as being the driving force that puts the event on for the last ten years which Pachciarz explains is practically its own full-time job which begins days after the last parade ends. Pachciarz is also responsible for planning all the city’s other large events but she says that none mean more than Veterans Day.
“It’s so much different than Pet Palooza,” she said with a chuckle. “Both events are fantastic, but this is just so meaningful to so many people. I hear how thankful they are that we do something like this, how much it means to them.”
One of those grateful veterans is Roger Olsen – a U.S. Navy veteran from the Vienam era – who has been marching in the parade since 1997 with his American Legion post.
“I really love to march in the parade,” Olsen said. “It brings out one of the few things you see from a small town like Auburn, patriotism, and I think that the veterans really appreciate it.”
Before he began marching in the parade, Olsen used to watch from the sidelines, an experience which he says is drastically different than marching.
“I think that you have a totally different perspective,” he said. “I think that what I like about it is that when you actually march by the folks will say ‘thank you’ and things like that and it’s really heartwarming.”
For more information and a full list of Veterans Day events, go online.