Patriotism, loyalty, and courage are three things that take precedence in the form of Veteran’s Day. This holiday brought about the Phoenix Veteran’s Day Parade and a nonprofit organization called Honoring America’s Veterans (HAV).
Their mission is simple: to honor and recognize our veterans for the service and freedom they provide to our country. HAV came about in 2012 after the previous organizer of the Veteran’s Parade decided to support another organization.
“The parade was in peril. Fortunately, Rick Romley, a disabled Vietnam veteran and former Maricopa County Attorney decided that we needed to have this event in our city,” Executive Director Paula Pedene said.
Romley took over and helped find sponsors and built the nonprofit, making sure the right people were on board.
In 2013, HAV faced another huge challenge when the Veteran’s Affairs Department withdrew its sponsorship.
“That meant the loss of many VA staff who were working to support it. Thankfully, the City of Phoenix stood behind the event and gave us the additional support we needed to clear this hurdle. From then until now, our organization continues to evolve and change,” Pedene said.
Then, the pandemic hit. Last year’s parade was canceled. But this year, HAV is hoping to recover and succeed well into the future.
The parade first started in 1997. Pedene said that it was based on a challenge from her boss at the time because the company had felt that their previous Veteran’s Day event was uninspiring.
“When he told me that, I knew it was one of those times when it wouldn’t be helpful to explain to him what happened, so I went about creating the parade,” she said. “We worked through Councilman Craig Tribken and the City of Phoenix Special Events Department.”
She said that the city was nervous about hosting another event with limited staffing, but she promised them that everything would work out.
“The parade has grown over the years, from 10,000 spectators to 45,000. The love, support and joy the parade offers to so many is inspiring,” she said.
Typically, there are around 100 parade entries each year, with about 3,000 people in the parade and 200 volunteers.
The 2021 parade starts at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 11, beginning at Montebello and Central, south to Camelback Road, south on 7th St. and ending at Indian School Road.
The organization holds the Veterans Grand Marshals competition and a High School Essay Competition along with the parade.
The ‘Honor Our Heroes’ Veterans Grand Marshal competition asks the community to help find seven veterans who can serve as grand marshals in the parade. The Vets must be from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom.
HAV then selects the highest-ranking candidates, and they are featured in the parade. The group has their bios in the parade program book and is invited to other events and activities.
HAV also hosts a High School Essay competition based on the parade theme each year. Students submit essays and a team then votes to select winning entries. Winners receive $250 in cash, ride in the parade, and their teachers also receive $150. The winning essays are published in the parade program book.
In the spring of 2022, HAV hopes to host its inaugural Veterans Leadership Forum, where guests attend a breakfast to learn more about the important role veterans play as leaders in our community.
HAV is looking for volunteers to be on the board, as well as parade volunteers. Opportunities are on their website:
Phoenix Veteran’s Day Parade
November 11 @ 11 a.m.
Downtown Phoenix, starting at Montebello and Central Ave.
*Arrive early to find parking and don’t forget to bring something comfy to sit on!