MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) -- Thousands came out in Manhattan Friday for the annual Veterans Day Honor Parade. Fort Riley soldiers joined the Flint Hills community for the celebration down Poyntz Avenue. People lined the downtown strip, from the mall to the city park, for the procession.
As marching bands and soldiers marched past Ray Thompson, he couldn’t help but reminisce about those who served beside him and sacrificed everything. A veteran of the Korean War, the Berlin Crisis and Vietnam, he served 26 years in the Army and is one of the original members of the Flint Hills Veterans Coalition.
"Today is a day to remember all of our deceased veterans. I have a lot of friends that were killed in Korea and in Vietnam and today, to me, is a day that we honor all the veterans but we honor those people especially. I miss them all. I miss them," Thompson told 13 News.
Schools and local organizations as well as state and local officials joined Thompson in remembering veterans both past and present.
"I remember coming back from Vietnam, communities didn’t want anything to do with the military but here in Manhattan and even in Junction City, I’ve seen a close knit togetherness of support and it’s outstanding. I’m really happy to be here. Soldiers have sacrificed so much and especially their family members. They go through just as much as the soldiers do but the community showing their support for the soldiers, the family members, the kids, it’s a good thing. It shows patriotism and American unity," said Colonel Ed Ahl, the Installation Chaplain for Fort Riley.
At a ceremony after the parade, Fort Riley's Commanding General, Major General William C. Mayville Jr. was the keynote speaker. He described the different programs in place on Fort Riley that help soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan transition back to life here at home.
"We honor veterans not just on Fort Riley but throughout Kansas. Today, there are over 225,000 veterans in the state of Kansas and over 5,000 of them are here in Riley County... Many of the soldiers that are veterans today, still wearing the uniform, have collectively served in combat over these 10 years longer than any other veteran in our nation’s history, longer than World War II, Korea and Vietnam," he told the crowd.
Major General Mayville told the audience that all veterans carry sadness in their hearts because of what they've seen and been through but it is a sadness without bitterness because they were serving their country honorably.
"There are some things, that because we serve, that the American people should not know and it's our responsibility that they never know," he added.