“Still Serving after 80 years” is the theme of the 98th Annual Corvallis Memorial Day Parade parade that is hosted by the Corvallis American Legion Post #91 and the Ladies Auxiliary.
The parade begins at 10 a.m., on Monday, May 28, on Corvallis' Main Street.
The parade's grand marshalls are local World War II veterans Ken Gardner, Bill Sperry, Carl Swanson and John Gurtner.
Gardner, 100, was a staff sergeant in the 102nd Infantry 1944 to 1946. He arrived at Pearl Harbor right after it was attacked in 1944, then he was in the 13th Replacement Depot doing a variety of jobs.
“Then they moved me over to the other part of the island,” Gardner said.
He received the Victory medal, the Asiatic Pacific Medal and a Good Conduct Medal, and operated heavy equipment right after the war.
Sperry, 99, said being selected grand marshall was an honor.
Sperry saw eight countries through his military service in the Air Force from 1941-1945 including Africa, England, North Ireland, Algeria, Tunisia, Sicily, Corsica and Italy.
Sperry was a staff sergeant in the 52nd fighter group and is credited with 125 aerial victories, two distinguished unit citations and 14 campaigns in Spitfires and Mustangs.
Swanson, 98, said he enjoys the annual parade tradition.
“I think it is great,” Swanson said. “I think I’ve taken part in all of them. It is a great institution.”
Swanson was born on the farm in the Bitterroot Valley in 1920 and served in the U.S. Air Force 1941-1964.
“I was a mechanic and worked on B29 bombers,” he said.
Swanson was stationed on the island of Tinian in the Mariana Islands during the Pacific campaign in World War II.
“It was an experience,” he said.
Swanson and Sperry attended school together at Corvallis.
Gurtner, 94, is the youngster of the grand marshall group.
He drove tanks during basic training, served in the cadet program and the infantry then transferred to the Air Force. He started in 1943 and served for nearly 15 years.
“I went back to college for the Air Force officers training,” Gurtner said.
The hearty grand marshals will ride in vintage Army Jeeps.
Parade organizer Doug Mason said the Corvallis Memorial Day parade was started by World War I veterans after they returned from Europe. Main Street was dirt at that time but the color guard and veterans marched proudly.
“For 98 years the Bitterroot Valley has enjoyed this rich tradition of honoring those active duty personnel and veterans who have died,” Mason said. “Today, we honor all of the United States of America‘s war dead — those who died that freedom might live.”
After the parade, at noon, American Legion Post #91 will conduct its annual memorial ceremony at the Corvallis Cemetery. Post members will read the names of every veteran buried at the cemetery since the Mexican War in 1848. After the cemetery ceremony, post members will move to the Woodside Cutoff Bridge and place a wreath in the Bitterroot River to honor all military personnel who died at sea.
The ceremonies are open to the public and the community is invited to attend.
Events begin early on Memorial Day with the Corvallis Community Events Center (CCEC) serving breakfast from 7 to 9 a.m., at the Corvallis High School lunchroom, located off the Eastside highway.
The Bitterroot Woman’s Club will be selling plants and pies in front of Corvallis High School.
After the parade the Corvallis High School Performing Arts group will host food booths and games in front of the school until 1 p.m.
The Bitterrodders will have a car show after the parade at the Veterans Monument, 101 Hieronumus Park Drive, in Hamilton. To vote for your favorite car add a dollar to the bucket in front of it. All donations will be used for maintenance at the Veterans Monument.