COLUMBUS, Ohio –
The Columbus Veterans Day Parade is set to return Nov. 5 after a pandemic pause and Defense Supply Center Columbus volunteers are getting in on the action ahead of the big day.
Over the years, volunteers from DSCC’s largest tenants at the Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service – Columbus have helped organize and put on the Columbus Veterans Day Parade, said John Dreska, division chief for DLA Land and Maritime’s Batteries, Tires, Engines and Armament section.
Dreska has served in a variety of functions including script writing, marshaling and section organizer in the 26 years he’s been associated with the parade. His primary volunteer role is to run the marshaling area on Nationwide Boulevard between High Street and Neil Avenue along the parade route. In this capacity he ensures participants are in the correct marching order, which is critical to maintaining the parade’s flow.
“We typically have 30-50 volunteers to help us along the way,” Dreska said. “We have four sections they primarily organize, which are the VIP, Veteran, Military and Community sections for the parade. We also have a sign-in and receiving section that directs people to their areas.”
There are fewer volunteers this year compared to past years but Dreska said that’s to be expected as city events resume. Anyone interested in volunteering is welcome to meet organizers at 10 a.m. Friday at the Arch next to Nationwide Arena to help with unit formation.
This year’s Grand Marshal is retired Army Col. Bill Butler, Chief of Staff with the National Veterans Memorial and Museum. Local television personalities Stacia Naquin, of Channel 6 News, and Fox 28’s Bob Kendrick will narrate the event.
The parade begins at noon with a military fly-over by the Ohio Air National Guard. It will honor all veterans with floats that will feature veterans of Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and New Dawn as part of its “Welcome Home” theme. Historically, the event serves to bring together representatives from the region’s surrounding military and government entities to show support for the nation’s military. Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted will join Ohio National Guard Adjutant General Army Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr., and DLA Land and Maritime Chief of Staff Air Force Col. Christopher Tooman in the reviewing stand, along with officials from the Ohio legislature, Ohio judicial circuit and the Ohio Department of Veterans Services.
The free, public parade is sponsored by the Military/Veterans Educational Foundation – commonly known as MilVets – and traditionally concludes with a final float hosted by the U.S. Marine Corps collecting new unwrapped gifts for Toys for Tots.
Past parades have drawn thousands to downtown streets to watch the historical vehicles, marching bands and themed floats that are signature to this Central Ohio event. The 2019 parade featured an operational 1945 Sherman Tank and celebrated World War II veterans. With the pandemic not allowing the 2020 parade to take place, organizers said there is even more excitement building around this year’s parade as a result.
While Dreska was instrumental in the lead-up to the parade, he will miss the big event due to his dual role as a brigadier general in the Army Reserve. Dreska commands the 311th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and will be welcoming a unit home from Iraq while deploying additional Soldiers to stateside locations. The parade’s theme echoes his own sentiments about celebrating service.
“Welcome Home is about making sure all of our veterans and their supporters know that Columbus, Ohio is a veteran-friendly city with a long history of honoring our veterans and their families,” he said. “It’s about sharing our common bond of service to the country regardless of where, when, how or why you served. We want all veterans regardless of where they served to feel welcome and at home in Columbus.”
The parade will step off from Nationwide Plaza at North High Street and travel south through downtown to Broad Street, where it will proceed west past the reviewing stand and special guests and then across the bridge to end in front of the National Veterans Memorial and Museum. For more information, visit www.ohiomilvets.org.