Home Editor's Picks Mesa honors veterans with parade and benefit concert

Mesa honors veterans with parade and benefit concert

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Retired Major Gen. David P. Rataczak and Melissa Forrester discuss the East Valley Veterans Parade on last month's Mesa Morning Live. (Kelly Mixer/MyNewsMesa.com)

The East Valley Veterans Parade, an all-volunteer community event held annually in downtown Mesa, will take place tomorrow, Nov. 11. Festivities begin at 10:30 a.m. at the corner of Center Street and University Drive, with the parade itself kicking off at 11 a.m. Come join this more than 50-year Mesa tradition celebrating the service and sacrifices of our veterans, active military and their families.

“There will be over 100 different floats,” said Melissa Forrester with United Food Bank, vice president of the parade committee. “We’re having a peanut butter drive so come to the parade with a jar and help us honor our veterans. We need to come out in droves and celebrate all our veterans. If you’re a veteran, you shouldn’t have to worry about food.”

More than 2,000 people will march or ride in this year’s parade – in cars, military vehicles, floats, motorcycles and on horseback. High school marching bands, dancers in sparkling costumes and flag bearers will add sound and color to this community expression of pride and gratitude. Representatives of every military branch will participate, including the parade’s Grand Marshal – retired Major Gen. David P. Rataczak – whose 43 years of distinguished service with the U.S. Army culminated in his position as The Adjutant General of the Arizona National Guard.

Rataczak was in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 when the plane hit a room right next to the conference room he was meeting in.

“At the time we didn’t know what had happened in New York,” he remembered. “We heard a big boom and the ceiling tiles came down. People were screaming but there really wasn’t any panic. My immediate thought was the crane outside fell and I thought it was a construction accident.”

The Jones Family joined the parade beginning in 2013 to honor their dad, Maurice Jones who says of his military service, “I fought for my family’s future.” A veteran of World War II and the Korean War, for which he was awarded a Bronze Star, Maurice, 90, plans to ride with his wife and extended family one more time in this year’s parade. The family’s parade entry has always consisted of a five-ton Military Transport Truck and a pickup pulling a 30-foot open trailer, all decorated in patriotic themes. Thirty to 40 family members ride in the vehicles while singing their theme song, “This is Worth Fighting For,” over and over with music through speakers.

The East Valley Veterans Parade is an opportunity for area residents to personally honor and remember the service of members of the military who safeguard our freedoms. It is a once-a-year chance to say, “thank you” to the men and women from our East Valley region who have sacrificed so much on our behalf; some to the point of giving their lives.

Parade, benefit concert details

The parade will begin at 11 a.m. at the intersection of Center Street and University Drive and will travel south on Center Street and turn west on First Street. The parade will continue on First Street to Robson where it will end.

This year’s parade has the theme “Honor and Remember.” Prior to the parade, at 10:30 a.m., a brief program will recognize veterans for their service to our country. It will include remarks from U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs, Mesa Mayor John Giles and Rataczak.

The following streets are scheduled to be closed for the parade:

7 a.m. (parade staging)

  • Center Street – 9th Place to University Drive (no northbound traffic)
  • Center Street – at Brown Road (local traffic only southbound from Brown)
  • Center Street – at 9th Place (reduced to one southbound lane to University Drive)
  • 8th Street – Center to Mesa Drive (local traffic only; Mesa Drive to Fitch Park driveway)
  • 6th Place – Center to Fitch Field parking lot

8 a.m.

  • Center Street – University Drive to Pepper Place
  • 3rd Place – Center Street to Drew
  • MLK Way – Center Street to Centennial Way
  • 2nd Street – at Center Street
  • 2nd Street – Robson to Country Club Drive
  • 1st Street – Centennial Way to Country Club Drive
  • Macdonald – Pepper Place to 2nd Street
  • Robson – Pepper Place to 2nd Street
  • Morris – 1st Street to 2nd Street

10:30 a.m.

  • University Drive – Mesa Drive to Country Club Drive

All streets should reopen by 2 p.m. Traffic can detour around the parade route by using Main Street, Mesa Drive, Country Club Drive and Brown Road.

In addition to the parade, the city of Mesa will present the Third Annual House Homeless Veterans Benefit Concert. The concert will be from noon to 2 p.m. at the Mesa Arts Center Alliance Pavilion Stage, 1 E. Main St. All donations from the concert will benefit the Housing Mesa’s Heroes program to help veterans find stable housing and the necessary support services they need.

The city of Mesa will be closed in observance of Veterans Day. Trash and recycle barrels will be on the normal collection schedule. Residents should have their containers out no later than 6 a.m. All bus and light rail routes will operate on a Sunday/holiday schedule.

All branches of Mesa Public Library will be closed Nov. 11. Webster and Jefferson recreation centers will be closed Nov. 10 and 11. The Red Mountain Recreation and Fitness Center will be open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 10 and 11 with no group fitness classes either day. The Red Mountain Active Adult Center will be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 10 and closed Nov. 11. Oakwood Creative Care will be open 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Nov. 10 and closed Nov. 11. The Dobson Ranch Golf Course will be open, and the Kino Aquatic Center and Skyline Aquatic Center will be open for adult lap swimming.

The Mesa Arts Center is open with several events taking place including the benefit concert. While the box office will be open, the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, The Store and administrative offices will be closed. The Arizona Museum of Natural History and Arizona Museum for Youth will also be closed.

Another Veterans Day observance in Mesa is the Royal Air Force Cadet Memorial Service Sunday, Nov. 12 at 10:45 a.m. at the Mesa Cemetery, 1212 N. Center St. The service, presented by the Commemorative Air Force Airbase Arizona, honors the 23 British cadets and one American pilot killed in air accidents during Falcon Field’s four years as a training facility for U.S. and British fighter pilots during World War II. Those individuals are buried in a special section of the Mesa Cemetery.

– Kelly Mixer is managing editor of MyNewsMesa.com. Reach her at kmixer@mynewsmesa.com.

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