This is my blog page

Petaluma Veteran’s Day Parade

On Wednesday, November 11th, Petaluma hosted the largest Veteran’s Day parade in Northern California.  I love my hometown and this parade is one of the things it really does right.  For many years our local American Legion Post 28 has organized the event.  Thousands of people turn out – about 10,000 were expected this year – to pay tribute to our military veterans and service members.

Steve Kemmerle, commander of Post 28, faced a challenge just to make the parade happen.  Because of a city budget crunch, Petaluma officials asked the American Legion group to foot the bill for the extra police and traffic services needed on the day of the parade.  But the Post couldn’t afford the $12,500 price tag.  In order to avoid canceling the event, local businesses stepped in and donated the needed funds.  Like I said, I live in a great community.

This was the first time the Bernstein Institute participated in the parade.  We attached banners and signs to my truck advertising the institute and thanking the veterans for their service.  We said, “We’re here for you” – and we meant it.  My wife, Lynn, had signs made with the Bernstein Institute logo, including our full business title: The Bernstein Institute for Trauma Treatment.

The parade announcers (there were three) had a little trouble pronouncing “integrative”, but they and many spectators along the route noticed “trauma treatment”.  People are becoming more and more aware of the issues of veteran trauma and PTSD.  Almost everyone fervently hopes that real help will be available for vets returning from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other stations overseas who’ve been traumatized by what they’ve seen and experienced.

The parade had over 120 entries, including veterans’ walking groups, military vehicles, a Russian tank and artillery piece, flyovers by a Huey helicopter and a P-51 Mustang, antique cars and trucks, marching bands, Boy and Girl Scouts, color guards, equestrian groups, Civil War re-enacters – just lots and lots of people who wanted to honor our vets and remember their sacrifices.

Army Lt. Col. Steve Countouriotis was Grand Marshall of the parade.  He is a Petaluma resident who served multiple tours of duty flying Blackhawk helicopters in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Spectators from all generations waved, clapped, and cheered as unit after unit passed.  Small kids waved flags and held up signs saying, “Thank you, veterans!”

We all need heroes to look up to, who inspire us with their courage and dedication to all that we hold dear.  Lt. Col. Countouriotis and other veterans like him are our “giants” and I appreciate their example to us, particularly our youth.

For me, the parade was a wonderful break from my heavy work load.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful to be busy helping so many people who are really struggling right now.  But as I’ve mentioned before, I need to take mini-vacations wherever and whenever I find them so that I can refresh and renew my energy and spirits.  I needed to rearrange my patient schedule in order to take part in the parade and I’m so glad I did.

The weather was perfect – a beautiful fall day with blue skies and sunshine – and I relished every moment I was able to be a part of one of my beloved hometown’s best traditions.  My arm got sore from waving to everyone, but I had no desire to stop.  I saw people I knew and many I didn’t.  I shared a special moment with my family and staff riding with me in the truck.

We had the opportunity to demonstrate our support and belief in what our country stands for.  Veterans lay their lives on the line for our freedom.  Old-fashioned values, like service and sacrifice, are so often the ones that matter most.  They provide the foundation for our cherished way of life.

Thank you Lt. Col. Countouriotis, thank you Steve Kemmerle, thank you veterans of Petaluma and veterans everywhere, of which I am also one.  I salute you.