Matt Gade, Deseret News
TAYLORSVILLE — John and Celeste Thibeault walked through the Flags of Honor, where a flag flies for each fallen soldier in Utah who lost their lives in recent wars. One of those flags was for their son, Spc. Jordan P. P. Thibeault, who died in 2008 in Iraq at the age of 22.
“I feel gratitude for all those who have served, past, present, and future even, because we will always need our military but also as a mom, I feel honored to have had my son serve,” Celeste Thibeault said.
Before they spent time at the Flags of Honor memorial, the Thibeaults rode with fellow Patriot Guard Riders through the Taylorsville Veterans Day parade Monday morning.
“It’s so nice to see the kids from school that were here for the parade, but it’s typically a neglected holiday,” John Thibeault said. “It’s nice to be part of something that’s much bigger than ourselves. That’s our patriotism, that’s our country, that’s just a small bit of what we do to support the military.”
Several dozen veterans participated in the Veterans Day parade, which began at Valley Regional Park and ended at Taylorsville City Hall, where a program was held at the Taylorsville Veterans Memorial.
“Every year on this day, in this month, at this hour, our nation remembers a moment when the guns of World War I went silent, and we recognize the service and the sacrifice of our nation’s veterans,” Taylorsville Mayor Jerry Rechtenbach said.
“From Valley Forge to Vietnam, from Kuwait to Kandahar, Berlin to Baghdad, our veterans have borne the cost of America’s wars, and they have stood watch over America’s peace, and we are grateful to the veterans who have all fought for our freedom, and we honor them today.”
The parade was led by grand marshal Marion Kesler, who joined the Navy in 1941 when he saw war brewing in Europe and wanted to volunteer before he could be drafted. He was stationed at the submarine base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941.
“You could see the pilot in the front, the bombs, torpedo underneath him. They were that close to the back of my ship,” Kesler said.
He said his shipmate shot down the first Japanese plane that morning in Pearl Harbor.
“The Japanese were after the big battlewagons, and he was stationed at the submarine base, so they were going to fly over them, but that was one bomb that didn’t hit the ships because it was downed,” said Kesler’s wife, Viola.
Kesler served five and a half years, during which time he married. He and his wife will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary in September.
“It made me feel proud to be a veteran and to have served our country," he said of Monday's parade. "Just waving at all those little kids, it was great to see them,” Kesler said.
Kesler was joined at the parade by Melvin Holley, who in 1941 volunteered for what was then called the United States Army Air Corps. When asked what it was like to be called to active duty after Pearl Harbor, Holley said, “Oh, I was ready.”
Holley’s three years of service landed him the honor of being a parade marshal on Monday.
“It was a lot of fun, one of the greatest things that happened to me,” Holley said. “Everybody as I waved to them were all waving back at me and seemed to support the veterans so well, and I’m just really amazed at the reception we got.”
Veterans and their families, community members and government officials gathered for a program now hosted by the city and the United Veterans Council.
Rechtenbach said there are more than 1.5 million Americans currently serving and 24 million veterans.
Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, was the keynote speaker at the ceremony and remembered "the heroes who faithfully answer duty's call."
“We extend our condolences to the families and friends who grieve. We pray for those who have passed on as well as those who must keep going. We treasure the memory of the soldiers who died too young, as well as the living history of the grey-haired warriors who are here among us.”
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