A series of Veterans Day events meant to honor those who have served in the armed forces are scheduled to occur in Gilbert and Mesa between Nov. 7 and Nov. 9.
One of the events that will recognize veterans is the sixth annual Veteran’s Day Celebration at Higley High School’s football field on Nov. 8, which traditionally draws loads of students and community members to the high school.
“It’s probably in the thousands; both sides of the stadium are full … we pack the house,” said Superintendent Denise Birdwell, who calls the ceremony “one of the most wonderful tributes I’ve been involved in.”
On the docket for the event are music, a flyover and numerous speeches from district officials and veterans highlighted by World War II veteran James Megellas. Higley Project Specialist Kim Fouhy said Megellas, who served as an officer in the Army and is flying from Texas to speak, is the most decorated member of the 82nd Airborne Division and was nominated for the Medal of Honor.
“He knows how to speak to students; he can get the message to students,” Fouhy said of Megellas.
Higley High School is located at 4608 E. Pecos Road in Gilbert, and more information about the event, which concludes at 11 a.m., is available by contacting the district at (480) 279-7000.
Birdwell said the reason the district set up its event on Friday was to avoid overlapping with other ceremonies, like the ninth-annual Veterans Day Ceremony the Town of Gilbert will host at the Gilbert Municipal Center on Nov. 7. According to a press release, the event will honor local veterans through a variety of activities, including a flyover by a Consolidated PB4y-2 Privateer, a speech from former Maricopa County Attorney and current President of the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Rick Romley and a performance by the Williams Field High School band.
The ceremony, which is open to the public, begins at 11 a.m. at the municipal center, located at 50 E. Civic Center Drive, and will last for approximately 30 minutes; a complimentary lunch will be served afterward. More information is available by visiting gilbertveteransday.com.
Wrapping up the three days of events is the East Valley Veterans Parade in downtown Mesa on Nov. 9 beginning at 11 a.m.
The theme for this year’s event is “Honoring Our Veterans and Military, One Parade at a Time,” which is meant to recognize the sacrifices soldiers have made while serving their country. Retired U.S. Army Col. Joey Strickland, who was the Director of the Arizona Department of Veterans Services Director, will serve as the parade’s grand marshal.
Following the parade, visitors can visit the Mesa Arts Center’s parking lot to see a replica of the USS Arizona and a collection of military vehicles until 3 p.m. More information about the parade is available by visiting evvp.org.
Honoring veterans and emphasizing the connection among the members of the respective city, town and school communities are common themes all three events share, but residing just under the surface is how the events can help keep history alive.
It can be easy for a younger set of people to lose touch with major events that occurred in the past once participants begin to die, so having people like the 96-year-old Meggallas speak to a slew of students allows them to have a connection with something that happened well before their births.
Similarly, events like the one hosted by Higley are a way of showing the commonality of service among veterans who have served at various times over the last seven decades.
“They (attendees) will realize that this is truly a generational ceremony from one generation to the next,” Fouhy said.
What: Town of Gilbert 9th-annual Veterans Day Ceremony
When: Thursday, Nov. 7; 11 a.m.
Where: Municipal Center; 50 E. Civic Center Drive
What: Higley’s 6th-annual Veterans Day Celebration
When: Friday, Nov. 8; 8 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Where: Higley High School; 4608 E. Pecos Road, Gilbert
Information: Contact HUSD at (480) 279-7000
What: Valley Veterans Parade
When: Saturday, Nov. 9; 11 a.m.
Where: Downtown Mesa / Mesa Arts Center; (1 E. Main St., Mesa)
Contact writer: (480) 898-5647 or firstname.lastname@example.org