MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) -- More than 2,000 school children along with Fort Riley soldiers and local veterans took part in a parade Friday through downtown Manhattan.. an event that paid tribute to troops both past and present.
The theme for the annual Veterans Day Celebration, hosted by the city of Manhattan and the Flint Hills Veterans Coalition, was: "Treasure Your Freedom, Honor Our Veterans."
"It’s important that we don’t forget those who have served. We are a military community. We’re very proud of all those that have served. You’ll see a lot of our veterans going by and they’re still proudly wearing their uniforms," said Lori Bishop, president of the Flint Hills Veterans Coalition.
Film crews from the USA Network were also on hand to capture a performance our national anthem sung by Fort Riley spouses.
It’s for a show called "The Choir" that starts in February which highlights groups in society that might not get the attention and recognition they deserve.
Producers say the very first episode will be dedicated to military spouses from Fort Riley. The episodes that will follow will touch on other segments of society like the elderly, firefighters and children, they said.
British choir director Gareth Malone told WIBW: "I’m going around the country starting choirs in all sorts of different situations-places where people don’t sing together. And I’ve come to Fort Riley to find lots and lots of military spouses who perhaps did a bit of a boost. I think they need to be heard because let’s face it- we all talk about the troops and quite rightly so. We celebrate everything they do and have this huge respect for the forces over here but the wives and the husbands who are left behind- I don’t think they get enough attention and they deserve a voice too."
"They surprised the spouses this morning. They didn’t know they were coming here. They thought they were at a rehearsal," Bishop said.
Malone did a similar show in England which included a performance for the Queen.
"To be part of the patriotic attitude of the Americans and the way you celebrate and you honor your troops- and I hope now you’ll honor your military spouses as well- it’s just fantastic. It’s just a really exciting thing to be a part of," he added.
During a commemorative program after the parade at Manhattan City Hall, Fort Riley’s senior commander Brigadier General Don MacWillie called our veterans "treasures," adding that our country now has the largest population of young veterans ever. Statistically, he says the number of veterans in Riley and Geary County will double as the Army downsizes and more soldiers enter the civilian world.
"On this day that we honor our veterans, I charge each of you to support programs that support our veterans. We must advocate on behalf of our veterans… A nation rallies for its troops during a time of war but it’s a great nation that rallies and stands behind its veterans when they come home," MacWillie told the crowd.
"May we never forget those who’ve sacrificed for us. May we remember those who currently serve. May our nation always cherish those who live by the motto that I love so much: ‘No mission is too difficult, no sacrifice is too great.’ They are our veterans," he added.