Monday, November 2, 2009

In Time of War Veterans to be honored

Veterans Day will be a special occasion for Benton's Dale Whipple, who will spend it in the nation's capital, honoring fallen comrades in Arlington National Cemetery.

After that, he and other officers with the Berlin Airlift Veterans Association will be the guests of Vice President Joe Biden at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House.

Whipple will leave Nov. 8 for the event. He and the tens of thousands of airmen, soldiers, sailors and Marines who served with him in the late 1940s are part of a lost class of U.S. veterans, the "Cold Warriors" who stood alerts and wore the nation's uniforms at a time of ostensible peace but when war could uncoil like a snake at any time.

"We were 20 miles from the Russian zone," Whipple said of his time in occupied Germany just a few years after World War II ended. "You could look down the mountain and see them patrolling. It was an uneasy time even though it wasn't war."

More important than winning a war, the airlift, which defied a Russian blockade of the then-divided German city of Berlin, not only fed the besieged people but also the imagination of the world, which knew Allied resolve would win over totalitarianism.

"I'm really proud of that," said Whipple, who has returned to Berlin several times over the decades. "At the time, we didn't realize the impact it would have on Germany and the entire world because we provided the people with food and they wound up with their freedom. We were holding back the Soviet troops."

Locally, veterans will be honored in numerous ways, largely at schools on the federal holiday, Nov. 11, that traces its origins to the final day of combat in World War I.

However, a handful of high-interest events will take place the Saturday before the official holiday to allow the greatest number of people to participate.

A Veterans Day Parade will be held Saturday at Bossier Parish Community College in Bossier City. And a Veterans for Veterans motorcycle event and festival will be held the same day in Shreveport-Bossier City.

Veterans from World War II and wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan will march along a half-mile route along U.S. Highway 80 starting at 10 a.m. in the Honor Our Heroes parade.

The Veterans for Veterans rally at Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport is a free-admission, family-oriented event that will include live music, food and nonalcoholic drinks with a bike show, bike games, a car show, a silent auction and a drawing for prizes.

It will begin at 9 a.m. with a posting of the colors, followed by the Port Belly Project belly dancers, the bike show, guest speakers, a parade of motorcycles, a Barksdale Air Force Base flyover, live music and the silent auction.

Ther charge to participate in the ride is $20 each in advance, $25 the day of the event, with proceeds going to support veterans receiving care from the Overton Brooks facility. Donations are tax-deductible