Reporting Jim Armstrong
BEVERLY (CBS) – This Sunday, the streets of Beverly will look just like they always do. And that’s the problem, some veterans say. The city has cancelled its annual Memorial Day parade for what’s believed to be the first time since the end of the Civil War.
Many veterans who were gathered at the Herman A. Spear American Legion Post on Friday night are upset by the decision.
“It’s not right to me,” says Ron Innocenti. He is a Vietnam veteran who has not only marched in the city’s Memorial Day parade in the past, he says he has also been its grand marshal.
He hates to cancel because of the message it sends to men and women serving now.
“It’s a slap in the face to them that we’re not doing it,” he says. “But on the other hand, I can see why we’re not doing it because of the age of the veterans we have now.”
That gets to the heart of the problem. In Beverly, there just are not enough veterans alive who are well enough to march in the parade anymore.
“Most of us, like myself, either have some knee issues or foot issues or whatever,” explains Jerry Guilebbe, the city’s Director of Veterans’ Services. “Just getting down the street to march” can be difficult if not impossible, he says.
Innocenti agrees. “We try and try,” he says. “When we were younger we used to march everywhere, but we can’t do it anymore.”
As for younger veterans – like the men and women who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan – they are often too busy to take part.
“I’ve found just talking with them,” explains Guilebbe , “they’re emergency medical technicians, firefighters, police. They’re first responders, so traditionally that’s their day to work so it’s hard to get them to come out and actually participate.”
In years past, numbers have fallen so low that for 2013, organizers decided to just have everyone meet here at Odell Park for a ceremony.
It’ll be a proper gathering, it just won’t be a parade.
“It’s very disappointing to me; I think it’s a shame,” says Robert Driscoll, a local veteran who served in Korea. “Hopefully maybe next year we can change that.”
City officials think that’s possible. If enough veterans come forward to participate, or if the city can come up with another way to have them be a part of the parade, then the city will bring it back.