Ron King, 69, president of Chapter 528–Vietnam Veterans of America, says the group will not be marching in the 4th of July Parade in Plymouth this year. Photo by Don Howard
April 11, 2014 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
Vietnam veterans out of 4th of July parade
By: Don Howard
When the Fourth of July Parade marches down Main Street in Plymouth this year, representation from one era of American history will be markedly absent.
Members of Chapter 528–Vietnam Veterans of America will not be marching in the event as they have for the past 20 years, a decision the group did not make easily. To some of the veterans, the decision was based on health issues, but others feel parade organizers have demonstrated a lack of respect for the service they provided to their country.
It’s a long one-mile walk from the railroad tracks on Main Street to end of the Independence Day parade route for some of the aging veterans, said Ron King, a Vietnam veteran and retired Air Force Major with 22 years of service. The walk is far more difficult for the vets when they must stand in line for more than an hour, waiting for their slot near the end of the parade.
King said he wants some relief from that long wait for many of his comrades who are among the more than 320 members of Chapter 528 who have marched in the Plymouth parade on July 4th for two decades.
King said taking their position near the end of the line for the parade and the long wait is getting to be too much for many of the aging members of the color guard who carry the flag and banner of the organization. For some, King said, the wait has made it impossible for them to participate in the patriotic event.
“This August we will mark the 50th national anniversary of the Vietnam War and many of our member are experiencing physical problems” said King, the chapter president who served with the 38th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron in 1971 – 1972.
“Last year we were number 51 in line and the guys just can’t march this distance after the long wait. We’d like to be up near the front, so we could march and be done. It’s a long time to spend standing before the parade and then walk the distance…We’d like to be in the first to 10th positions…after all we’ve supported the Plymouth community 4th of July Parade for years, and we’re humbled for the honor,” King said. Retired army sergeant and veteran of the 9th Infantry, Bob Lamoureux, agreed with King. Lamoureax served in Vietnam in 1968 and is part of the color-honor guard for the Plymouth-Canton chapter.
“A lot of the members feel it’s disrespectful to be stuck in the back, and want to be near the front,” Lamoureax said.
He said that a representative from the chapter spoke with Fred Hill, the parade organizer, and asked that
the group be moved closer to the front of the parade line-up to accommodate the physical conditions of some members of the group.
Lamoureax said the member received a negative response from Hill and the group has therefore decided to withdraw from the Plymouth Independence Day parade.
Hill, a long-time Plymouth resident and real estate salesman heads up a military- like group of businessmen that marches and performs in parades.
Since 1985 Hill has achieved national recognition with his drill team Briefcase Brigade,
The 16-member volunteer group of local Plymouth businessmen performs with military precision at parades and events. Dressed alike in black business suits, the men carry briefcases, march in formation and entertain the crowds, singing and calling cadence.
In recent years they performed in the Detroit Thanksgiving Parade and in 2008 were asked to perform at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.
In a telephone interview, Hill acknowledged King’s request, but said he was “not going to address the issue right now.”
“I don’t have a comment.” Hill said.
King says he feels the Fourth of July Parade is a patriotic celebration in honor of those who fought for “the independence of our country” and those honorable American veterans should be given the respect they deserve and be in the front of the parade.
“We’d rather lead the parade, than be in the back,” he said.
The veterans group will participate in the Plymouth Memorial Day Parade May 26 that will travel from Main and Wing Street to Main and Church Street, but will not march, but walk, the shorter distance. King has been asked to be the keynote speaker.
The Plymouth-Canton chapter is the only National Vietnam Veterans organization congressionally chartered and exclusively dedicated to Vietnam era veterans and their families. Membership is open to U.S. armed forces veterans who served on active duty in the Republic of Vietnam between 1961 and 1975.