The streets of Mesa were expected to fall silent on Veterans Day — no colorful floats, no waving American flags and no recognition that the nation’s soldiers are fighting and dying in the Middle East.
The city passed a budget this summer that axed all kinds of city-funded cultural events, which many people say help bind the community together.
But now it looks as though there will be a parade headed down Main Street on Nov. 11 after all. A group of veterans has taken on the task to raise enough money to continue a 30-year or more tradition in Mesa.
“We don’t want to forget veterans on Veterans Day, especially during a war,” said Jerry Walker, an organizer of the parade and a leader of the local Marine Corps League.
The Marine Corps League, with the help of the local chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars, started off with modest plans for a remembrance this year, Walker said. Just a month ago, the idea was to hold a ceremony in the parking lot of Mesa Community College.
Then, S.J. Fowler, who owns real estate agencies in the area, said he would guarantee the group $10,000, if needed, to stage a proper parade.
Fowler hasn’t been the only donor in the grassroots effort. Walker was handed contributions totaling more than $5,000 in just a few weeks of fundraising.
Some of the individual donations have been up to $1,000, he said. Others have been $1 and $2 donations anonymously stuffed into envelopes and mailed to organizers.
The Sequoia School for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing plans to hold a walkathon on Sept. 30 with a goal of raising $5,000. The pledge has pushed the parade fundraising effort over the hump and has helped take the pressure off Fowler, who has underwritten the whole thing.
“That nearly brought tears to my eyes,” Walker said.
City leaders have even jumped into the action. Mesa City Councilmen Rex Griswold and Scott Somers heard recently about the efforts to preserve the parade. They arranged for organizers to meet with city staff who helped coordinate the events in past years.
“We told them that if they had the money, we’ll help coordinate it for downtown — the way everyone wanted it to be and where it should be,” Somers said. “We’re going to make sure it gets done.”
The parade this year might not be as extravagant as in years past. For instance, it might be “too late” for the traditional floats, Somers said.
But most important is what the remembrance stands for, Walker said. Misty Dudley, 13, of Walker’s Young Marines, told him about a year ago that she would take comfort in knowing that a nation would remember her if she ever dies serving America, he said.
“That got to me because I don’t want her to be forgotten either,’’ said Walker, a Vietnam and Gulf War veteran. “None of the 18-and 19-year-olds who died in Vietnam should ever be forgotten either.”