District 11 American Legion Riders line up to participate in Saturday's Veterans Day Parade in Indianapolis. (Photo by Jeff Stoffer)

Indy mayor calls on older vets to reach out

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Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who served during the Gulf War, is calling upon those who served in the past to reach out to the newest generation of veterans coming home today from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Speaking at Saturday’s Veterans Day Memorial Service one block from American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis, Ballard thanked the Vietnam War generation for welcoming home the men and women who have fought in the Global War on Terrorism and urged them to stay connected in the years ahead.

“We, the older veterans, must step up and ensure they have the support they need,” Ballard said, adding that today’s veterans are not likely to come asking the older generation for assistance. “We must go to them.

“The net effect of 10 continuous years of fighting has not been felt yet,” Ballard said. He explained that many of those who served during the Vietnam War understand what it’s like to come home from war to a less-than-welcoming public. In the decades to come, he explained, today’s newly minted veterans should be able to “look back and be able to say America welcomed us back… helped us heal … and to thrive.

“I am so proud of the Vietnam veterans for taking on that mission and fulfilling it.”

Saturday’s event, presented by the Veterans Day Council of Indianapolis, Inc., included music by the 38th Division Band, Indiana Army National Guard and a fly-over by the 122 Fighter Wing, Indiana Air National Guard, based in Fort Wayne, Ind. American Legion National Adjutant Daniel S. Wheeler led the Pledge of Allegiance at the ceremony, which was followed by a parade through Indianapolis, which is second only to Washington, D.C., among U.S. cities, for the number of war monuments and memorials it possesses.

The American Legion Department of Indiana, Legion Riders, American Legion Auxiliary and American Legion National Headquarters staff  were involved in the event, which attracted hundreds of veterans and their families. American Legion Past National Commander Robert W. Spanogle and his wife Ruth drove their vintage World War II jeep in the parade.