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Veterans march down Superior Street

Dan Laurila took his place in the parade Tuesday alongside fellow veterans from the past 70 years of American wars and conflicts. Fit and trim for his 87 years, Laurila didn't have a problem walking more than a mile from the old National Guard ar...

Veterans Day parade
Henrietta Robertson, 86, of Superior waves two American flags Tuesday morning while participating in the Duluth Veterans Day parade on London Road. Robertson served in the Army Signal Corps in 1944. [CLINT AUSTIN / NEWS TRIBUNE]

Dan Laurila took his place in the parade Tuesday alongside fellow veterans from the past 70 years of American wars and conflicts.

Fit and trim for his 87 years, Laurila didn't have a problem walking more than a mile from the old National Guard armory on London Road to the Depot downtown to honor his fellow veterans on Veterans Day.

Laurila served in the Army's 776th Tank Destroyer's unit, under Gen. George Patton in North Africa and Gen. Mark Clark in Italy. He received the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in service.

"I had to be here for the boys,'' Laurila of Duluth said with a grin, shrugging off the morning chill. "Especially those that can't be here.''

Ninety years to the day after the World War I armistice that ended the "war to end all wars,'' Duluth veterans and civilians honored people who have served in all the conflicts that followed.

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About 300 veterans and others who marched from the old National Guard armory to the Depot were met along the way by a smattering of well-wishers, some waving flags, clapping and proclaiming: "Thank you.''

Mike Colalillo, Duluth's Medal of Honor recipient, rode in a 1941 Packard painted to replicate an Army staff car, and active-duty Coast Guard and Air National Guard members joined in the walk.

A program followed in the Depot's Great Hall -- the point of departure for hundreds of Northland veterans who boarded trains on their way to serve.

Roger Braff, another World War II veteran, made it to the Depot for Tuesday's ceremonies as well. But when they asked all World War II veterans to stand to be honored, Braff could only raise his arm. The 83-year-old, who served with the U.S. Army's 8th Air Force in England, is in a wheelchair now and has to tote around an oxygen bottle.

Braff still can sing the national anthem, though, and he still recites the Pledge of Allegiance with the best of them. And when asked if it's important for veterans to attend the ceremony, he responded: "It is to me."

Retired Brig. Gen Nick Ostapenko gave the opening address before the parade, noting that only about 1 percent of the U.S. population serves in the armed forces, a tiny fraction of the nation's population whose contributions are often overlooked.

"We, as a nation, depend on that 1 percent to protect our freedom, to protect our homeland,'' he said.

Scott Yeazte of Duluth came to honor his grandfather, who died a decade ago.

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"He was a veteran of World War II, and it's really important for me to be here to show some support of all veterans,'' Yeazte said.

Related Topics: VETERANS
John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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