PHOENIX — Following a year off due to the ongoing pandemic, the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade is back in action next month. The Grand Marshals for this year's parade include seven Valley veterans representing every major conflict since World War II.
“I believe that’s where we were, that little ship hitting the blue beach area,” said Korean War veteran Sgt. Ralph Gastelum, pointing to a black and white aerial photograph.
The memories are not as vivid as they once were, but for the 90-year-old retired Marine, the Inchon Landing during the Korean War stands out.
“Had no idea where we were actually gonna go, it was pretty top secret,” said Gastelum.
The amphibious invasion would be a turning point in the war. An assault that included Gastelum and 75,000 troops, helping to recapture the South Korean capital weeks later.
“They were bombing it and doing everything they could to for us to disembark, all we knew is we had a job to do and we had to do it,” said Gastelum.
He would go on to fight bravely in more battles, surviving the frigid temperatures and becoming a true witness of what it takes to be free.
“As we moved on, you could really see the devastation of the war, flattened bodies from the tanks, burnt bodies from the bombs,” said Gastelum.
It was a physical and mental sacrifice so many soldiers continue to make for the country we call home.
Gastelum, along with six other veterans serving in conflicts from World War II to the war in Afghanistan, are now being honored as Grand Marshals in the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade next month.
“It’s not about me, it’s about all of us who went and did our jobs really well,” said Colonel Christine Mahon.
Colonel Mahon was a nurse during Operation Desert Storm. Her expertise and training helping to save hundreds of lives during her service. She says heartfelt letters from loved ones, and even strangers, kept her focused on the mission.
“The specific conflicts changed our country, I mean we wouldn’t be free if we didn’t have the World War II veterans, and the forgotten war of Korea,” said Mahon.
It’s that philosophy that makes this year's Veterans Day Parade so special. Allowing the expected 45,000 attendees to line the parade route, let them know what they’ve done will never be forgotten.
The parade begins November 11, at 11 a.m. Click here for a map of the route and additional information.