The Veterans Day Parade on St. Croix is different from other parades during the year. You don’t see members of the crowd drinking beer and wearing outlandish clothes. This year’s parade on Friday in Christiansted was also different in another way for a Veterans Day Parade – it had a decent crowd.
Veterans Day activities on St. Croix and on St. Thomas honored veterans who have earned Purple Hearts. Bill McCormack, a St. Croix resident and also a recipient of a purple heart, said he appreciated that. “This is very nice and long overdue.”
McCormack said he has come to every Veterans Day event for the last 14 years and this was the most attendance he has seen.
Secundinon Roman-Crux, commander American Post No. 102, also remarked on the size of the crowd in ceremonies after the parade down King Street. He said that he has often been “saddened” by the small crowds attending the annual event, but this year he was “heartened” to see so many.
Purple shirts and different purple attire was seen throughout the crowd of several hundred people gathered in any shady spot they could find around the gazebo in the Fort Christiansvaern Park.
The Virgin Islands Veterans Affairs office had asked everyone planning to attend either of the parades to wear purple in honor of those who have received this award.
“Being someone who has earned this award because he or she either lost their life or incurred an injury while serving in a combat environment against an enemy of the United States deserves to be recognized,” said Veterans Affairs Director Patrick Farrell in a press release last week.
Charles David, commander District 10 American Legion Puerto Rico, said in his remarks that military families also should be honored on Veterans Day because they have to sacrificed a lot too. He also said, “Hiring a veteran is not just good, it is good business.”
In the keynote address, Col. Aubrey L. Ruan of the Army National Guard said, “We need to do the right thing when it comes to honoring our veterans.” He added that that was not always easy. He pointed out that he had been in discussion with, at the time, former Gov. Charles Turnbull about building a veterans museum, which still has not been built.
Veterans’ lack of access to benefits in the Virgin Islands was touched upon in Gov. Kenneth Mapp’s remarks closing the ceremony. He said that while the local government has done as much as it could to help veterans receive their benefits, the federal government has failed.
He pointed to a recent appropriation that he signed that would give funding to a program allowing veterans to get a doctorate from the University of Virgin Islands. He reiterated this point on St. Thomas saying, "I have already signed the bill providing for the education of Veterans at UVI and that bill is already funded."
Another theme of his remarks was the recent presidential election and Virgin Islands residents’ inability to participate in it. He said, “As a small community, we have demonstrated through the spilling of our blood and the loss of family members that we are true Americans.”
Recipients of the Purple Heart were in the crowds at both ceremonies.