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Patriotism on full display at Bellevue’s Veterans Day parade despite the chill

November 11, 2018

Wind and frigid weather winnowed the crowd for the Saturday morning Veterans Day parade in Bellevue down to a hardy, bundled-up few.

But they were definitely enthusiastic.

“This is amazing!” said Heather Meehan, 26, a recent transplant to Bellevue from Fairfax, Virginia. “I have never felt more in touch with a community.”

The temperature was near 20 degrees and the wind chill in the single digits when the parade kicked off at 10 a.m.

That meant that the red Marine Corps flags held by Mike Kennedy, 65, and his son Jason, 38 — both former Marines — whipped smartly in the breeze. Mike lives in Bellevue and Jason in Omaha. They’ve been coming to the parade together for years. And this year, the parade coincided with the Marine Corps’ birthday celebration, which occurs every year on Nov. 10.

“It means a lot to me to be out here and support veterans,” Mike Kennedy said. “As cold as it is, I always think of the Marines at Frozen Chosin.”

Frozen Chosin is the Marines’ nickname for the Chosin Reservoir campaign in the Korean War, in which the 1st Marine Division fought its way out, in subzero cold, after being surrounded by enemy Chinese forces. It’s a legendary battle in Marine lore.

“My dad being a Marine, he instilled in me the Corps values,” said Jason Kennedy, who served from 1998 to 2002 with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, which fought at Frozen Chosin 50 years earlier. “I’m proud to support those who serve.”

The parade lasted about 40 minutes, a bit shorter than planned. There were active-duty troops from Offutt Air Force Base, which borders Bellevue, and ROTC cadets and bands from local high schools. Lisa Wilson of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the parade, estimated attendance at 1,000 to 1,500, lower than usual. She said about 10 entries dropped out because of the cold.

First-time marchers included members of the Bellevue-based Nebraska Nite Hawks, who are scheduled to begin play in the Women’s National Football Conference in the spring. Kari Menzia, the team’s executive director, said that quite a few of the team’s 50 players are veterans and that most have relatives who are veterans. They danced their way down Mission Avenue, ignoring the cold.

[ Hansen: The unlucky life of Nebraska’s own Private Ryan, killed in action after WWI had already ended ]

“We bundled up pretty good,” Menzia said. “We’re used to it. We’re tough — we practice outside.”

Despite the chill, Master Sgt. Trevor Fitzpatrick, who is assigned to Offutt, was wowed by the parade and the community support.

“It left me wanting more,” said Fitzpatrick, 36, a 19-year member of the Air Force who was born in Virginia. “This is my favorite duty station so far because of the tight-knit community.”

Bellevue’s Veterans Day parade was among the first, but far from the only, event this weekend honoring veterans.

Saturday evening, the Greater Omaha Marine Corps League detachment was scheduled to hold its annual birthday celebration from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Nebraska Brewing Co. Tap Room at 6950 S. 108th St. in La Vista.

The Marines trace their beginnings to Nov. 10, 1775, and this year, the league is celebrating the 100th anniversary of women in the Marine Corps. The guest of honor is Capt. Emily Lindsey, a veteran of the post-9/11 wars who is also a regional manager for Starbucks, which has committed to hiring 25,000 veterans and military spouses by 2020. The league will also honor Duane Tunnyhill, a World War II veteran from Omaha who fought at Iwo Jima and witnessed the iconic flag-raising at Mount Suribachi.

At 7:45 a.m. Sunday, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will unveil new plaques at Memorial Stadium listing the names of 113 UNL students who enlisted during World War I and honoring Gen. John J. Pershing, an NU graduate and professor who was the senior American commander during WWI.

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