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Veterans parade rolls through Petaluma Monday

  • Ellen Nugent, left, and Marylou Loustalot, Navy WAVES veterans, take part in the 2012 Petaluma Veterans Day Parade. ((BETH SCHLANKER / The Press Democrat))

Warbird flyovers and Native American drummers are among the highlights of this year's Petaluma Veterans Parade, the largest holiday salute to America's military north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Monday's parade — it's always held on Nov. 11 — kicks off at 1 p.m. from Walnut Park on D Street after a noontime musical celebration. After winding through downtown, the parade will end back at the park just before 3 p.m. with an invocation by 96-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor Herb Louden and several speakers.

Organizer Steve Kemmerle of American Legion Post 28 said this year's parade will be the biggest yet with about 200 entrants, many with multiple vehicles. One car club will roll with 30 vehicles and 46 veterans aboard.

Another entrant will include several dozen Native Americans, whose roles as American soldiers often have been overlooked.

Indians from more than half a dozen tribes from throughout California and Oregon will walk, drum and sing as part of a large contingent, said Terrance Brown of Petaluma, a Vietnam veteran and Karuk Indian.

Brown, or “Chitcus,” his Karuk name, will lead the contingent as the medicine man. Members of the Penry family will follow with flags, Brown said. Penry Park in Petaluma is named for Richard Penry, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing fellow soldiers in the Vietnam War.

A flatbed truck will carry a 21-foot ceremonial redwood dugout canoe with tribal elders in it, Brown said, followed by a trailer with drummers and singers performing war songs.

“It's been a long time since I've seen any Native American veterans (in parades). But our Native Americans have always been reserved; they're not accustomed to being out in the front so much,” Brown said.

“It's the opportunity to support our other veterans that have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Weather permitting, the Bay Bombers Squadron of San Rafael will perform a flyover with its members' military planes.

“It's our way say 'Thank you, America,' ” said pilot Kirk Heiser. The pilots likely will be flying CJ-6 Yaks and Marchetti SF260s in precision passes with smoke trails.

The parade will have four grand marshals for the first time, all Petaluma born and raised. They are: Irv Giacomini, 532nd Army Engineers in World War II and also served in Korea; Owen Fredricks, a Marine pilot in World War II who also served in Korea; Bruno Lombardi, an Army Air Corp B-17 tail gunner in World War II and prisoner of war; and Robert Harriott, 1st Calvary Pacific in World War II who later served at what was then the Two Rock Army base.

(You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.)

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