View Full Version : Old Vet Drums Up Parade for New Vet

06-06-03, 06:27 AM
Old Vet Drums Up Parade for New Vet

By Casie Vinall / Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 5, 2003 -- Self-proclaimed "neophyte parade planner" Paul C. Rock is on a mission. The Vietnam veteran and president of a Vietnam veterans' support group is working to ensure that his son and his fellow troops returning home from Iraq get the tribute they deserve.

Rock is the proud father of a lance corporal in the 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Lance Cpl. Zachary Rock, 19, served four months in Iraq. His dad decided he wanted to organize a parade in honor of his son and the community's other veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Rock got a permit for the parade to be held this Sunday, June 8, in downtown Longmont, Colo. Local officials are slated to close Main Street to all traffic.

Even though he'd never planned a parade before, Rock set out by designing flyers and finding a local print shop to make copies for free. He hosted "banner signings" at eight locations where hundreds of people expressed their appreciation. They also donated about $1,800 to give to the family of a local hero, Sgt. 1st Class Randall S. Rehn, 36, who was killed in action April 3.

So far, so good. But Rock's parade planning encountered a glitch.

Since his son returned earlier than expected and with little advance notice, Rock's only had about a week to coordinate the parade. With four days and counting, he's missing some of the necessary elements. Noticeably absent -- a color or honor guard, as well as a band.

Furthermore, Rock is having difficulty creating publicity for the event. He fears he's "giving a parade that no one will see."

"I've contacted three local high schools for marching," he said, "and although we found several kids who want to play for us on Sunday, we still have no brass or percussion sections, without which we'll have no marching band."

Rock said he also contacted several local motorcycle groups and a custom car club, but most folks already have plans for the weekend. He also contacted local recruiting stations and local police, but so far he's gotten no commitments.

Regardless, Rock keeps pressing on to make it happen because he knows the importance of recognizing service in "a noble, honorable, and righteous cause" such as Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Rock's plight has now reached the nation's highest military headquarters.

When the Colorado dad saw a story about Operation Tribute to Freedom on www.defendamerica.mil, the Defense Department's official Web site on the global war on terrorism, he decided this was a military campaign he wanted to join.

On Memorial Day, Pentagon officials launched Operation Tribute to Freedom "as a way to thank the men and women in uniform who have done such an amazing job," said Chris Willcox, a deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. The initiative is designed to thank the troops, create a stronger bond between the military and citizens, and underscore the fact that the global war on terrorism continues.

Rock sent an email asking for help.

"I just found out about Operation Tribute to Freedom a few minutes ago," Rock wrote. "First, please let me thank you for helping Americans pay tribute to the soldiers who put their lives on the line for our freedoms. I know that many Americans are desperate to do something like this, but are having difficulty in figuring out how to pull it off. Your help will be a tremendous asset."

On June 4, Rock's email reached the Pentagon, where officials are now contacting local military installations trying to locate a color guard or military band that could be deployed. But, four days is pretty short notice.

So what will become of the parade? For Rock, regardless of the outcome, the parade will be a success. "Even if the parade turns out to only be a handful of people," Rock said, "I'll be satisfied in knowing that we're doing the right thing."

(Casie Vinall is an intern working in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.)




06-10-03, 06:16 AM
And the Band Played On

By Casie Vinall / Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 9, 2003 It's not every day that Vietnam veteran Paul C. Rock gets a call from the mayor. But then again, June 8 was a special all-around day for Rock and the town of Longmont, Colo.

Julia Pirnack, mayor of Longmont, called Rock and his wife, Valerie, about an event that almost didn't happen.

It all started last week with an unexpected early homecoming of some troops from Iraq. Rock is the proud father of Marine Lance Cpl. Zachary Rock, a 19-year-old who had just returned from four months of service in Iraq. Rock decided to organize a parade to honor his son and 12 service members from Colorado who were killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom. With permit in hand, Rock began planning a parade to remember.

However, with such short notice, and despite numerous attempts to muster support and participants in the parade scheduled for Sunday, June 8, Rock was without a band, color guard and any news coverage for the event. But that all changed June 4.

Rock read about Operation Tribute to Freedom on www.defendamerica.mil, the Defense Department's official Web site on the global war on terrorism. He sent an e-mail to the Pentagon, and the ball started rolling.

Brent Krueger, community relations director at the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, received Rock's e-mail and promptly set out to find a solution to Rock's problem.

"I was touched by Mr. and Mrs. Rock's excitement about this parade and how they wanted to make a profound difference in their community," he said. "They are so very proud of their son and want the world to know it."

Krueger acted quickly to see if the department could help. "We immediately began working at the staff level here at the Pentagon and with our folks in Colorado to locate a band or color guard to participate in the Sunday parade. On Friday, we got word that the U.S. Air Force Band of the Rockies would participate in Mr. Rock's parade."

When Rock received a call from Senior Master Sgt. Larry Hill from the band, he said he could hardly contain himself. "My wife and I had grown skeptical that we'd be able to have the kind of tribute that we had hoped for," Rock said.

Getting the Air Force band, he said, meant the event would be "a real, honest to goodness, legitimate parade. Valerie gave me a big hug and said, 'It's really going to happen!'"

Beginning at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, 13-year-old Samantha Pineda started the Longmont event by singing the national anthem. Rock said the audience "responded with applause and 'hoorahs.'" The parade began following a rifle salute from the Veterans of Foreign War. The Air Force band led the way, marching down Main Street.

Rock estimates about 250 people marched in the parade. The Longmont Times-Call and the Boulder Daily Camera were on the scene. Radio Colorado Network on KLMO, 1060 AM, broadcast parade coverage. Longmont police provided an escort and the town's public works department helped set up the route.

All eight of the banners Rock and his Vietnam veteran's group had gathered signatures for were displayed. Rock rode down Main Street with a group of motorcyclists led by the Vietnam Survivors group.

The response from the crowd was overwhelming, according to the self-proclaimed neophyte parade planner. Rock said numerous volunteers wanted to carry the red, white and blue flower bouquets to honor the 12 fallen Colorado troops.

"At the end of the procession, people spontaneously came up to ask if they could add their signatures to the 'Thank You' banners," he said.

"Several people I'd never met before sought me out to shake my hand and thank me for organizing this tribute," Rock said. "With only a couple of weeks of planning and couple of days of exposure, we were overwhelmed with the number of people who showed, not only to be in the parade, but also to line Main Street to watch."

Rock thanked the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, Operation Tribute to Freedom and www.DefendAmerica.mil for "transforming this parade from an amateur event into what some people thought was months in the planning."

"Those who knew how little time we had to organize this were quite impressed with the outcome," Rock said. "We've been overwhelmed with the commitment, support and energy of all the people who have worked so diligently to help us with this tribute."

Rock was surprised by what was accomplished in so little time. "I found that people sincerely want to show their support to our service men and women, and this was a great opportunity to do it," he said.

What was the response from Rock's son, who was the primary reason for this parade? Zachary said he took part in the parade mainly to show his support for the troops that are still over there. He was surprised by show of support from the community.

"Honestly, I expected no one to turn out," he said. "I was amazed at how well it went."

The Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran said he got to meet Vietnam, Korean War and World War II vets. Humbled by the presence of these veterans who'd spent far longer in combat, he said, "I don't think I rank in the same category."

For Rock, the parade that almost wasn't turned into "a day that none of us will forget." For Valerie, the parade was an emotional tribute that brought tears to her eyes. For Zachary, it was a way to honor his brothers in arms and to join the ranks of the nation's honored war veterans.

(Casie Vinall is an intern working in the
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.)