For one Vietnam veteran, the Veterans Day Parade in downtown Roseburg Sunday morning was one he won’t forget.
It was 50 years ago when Danny Fromdahl was sent by the U.S. Navy to Da Nang in southern Vietnam, where he would spend 15 months.
Fromdahl, who graduated from Roseburg High School in 1962, was asked to ride in the Umpqua Dairy classic pickup truck and be honored for his service. Little did he know, his entire family, including some who came all the way from Newberg, Oregon, and Carson City, Nevada, would be waiting for him at the judging stand at the south end of Northeast Jackson Street.
“I saw Andrew (his son) and I thought, ‘What is he doing here?’ because he lives in Carson City, so it took me about two seconds and I thought, ‘Oh my goodness sakes! This is a great, great honor,’” Fromdahl said.
His family had it all planned out. Andrew Fromdahl, who calls his dad every year on Veterans Day, found out his dad had been deployed in 1968, so he thought it would be good to honor him on the 50th anniversary of that event.
“I’ve always wanted to come up and surprise him on Veterans Day, because when I was a kid we always went to the parade,” Andrew Fromdahl said. “The family started talking in August and we’ve been working on a big gathering and surprising him ... and it was a total surprise.”
Danny Fromdahl’s five siblings were there and a lot of family, including grandkids, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends, were in on the surprise.
“It’s just great because when we came home from Vietnam, this would have never happened, and now it’s so awesome that they’re honoring Vietnam vets,” Danny Fromdahl said. “I’m so thankful that our country is thankful for all the vets, but especially for the Vietnam vets too.”
Neil Hummel of Roseburg, also a Vietnam veteran, said the parade helps veterans from that war to put aside some of the ill feelings directed toward them when they returned from service.
“It rejuvenates you and re-energizes you to believe in your country and what your country stands for,” Hummel said. “What a great way to do that. I feel humbled and honored to be a veteran.”
Organizers said about 3,000 people lined the parade route, which went from Diamond Lake Boulevard south on Southeast Jackson Street to Southeast Lane Street, then back on Southeast Main Street to the Douglas County Courthouse.
The Oregon version of the Vietnam Wall, with names of all the soldiers who died in that conflict, was displayed in front of the courthouse and local members of the Vietnam Veterans of America helped visitors find names of friends and relatives. Side panels honored the Oregon soldiers who died in action during Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
This year’s grand marshals were aviation and support personnel in the military, and the theme was “Keeping Branches of Our Military Moving.” The grand marshals rode in Corvettes from the Timberland Corvette Club.
Cindy Kooken of Tenmile was at the event to honor her dad, 90-year-old Virgil Thomas, who is an Air Force veteran of World War II. At age 17, he was a mechanic that worked on one of the planes that dropped an atomic bomb. He didn’t make it to the parade, but she wanted to show her respect.
“It means more to me than you could ever imagine,” she said. “I love my daddy, I just want him to be seen for what he has done.”
Sunday’s parade was one of the biggest ever with 88 entries, and it lasted a little over a hour. The winner of the VA Roseburg Director’s Choice was the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets, who served as the honor color guard. The Oregon Army National Guard Charlie Company 186th Infantry was the winner of the Color Guard award, and the Marching and Walking Division was also won by Charlie Company.
The Veterans Service Officer Choice and the Veterans Float Award both went to the Vietnam Veterans Chapter 805 with their tank float. The Motorized Vehicle class was won by the Veterans for Veterans Corvettes. The winner of the open division for motor vehicles was won by the Stray Angels Car Club.
The winner of the Youth Organization entry was Glide Middle School; Open Division was won by Riders 22 for Veterans Suicide Awareness; Motorcycle veteran group class was won by the Patriot Guard; the Open Division winner was the Douglas County Riders; first place in the Equestrian Division was won by the Douglas County Mounted Posse; non-equestrian winner was the Umpqua Police K-9 Dogs.
Organizers were not able to get the jets from Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls for a flyover because they don’t fly on Sunday. But the U.S. Coast Guard stepped up with one of its helicopters, which made a couple of low, loud passes over the parade route.