The annual Council Bluffs Veterans Day Parade was held Saturday in downtown Council Bluffs. Six Iowa veterans were honored as Grand Marshals of the parade.
The parade was led by the color guard, followed by Junior ROTC cadets marching to cadences. Other participants included Ollie the Trolley carrying veterans, members of the VFW, local police and fire honor guards, the Disabled Veterans Riders, the Knights of Columbus, the Girl Scouts, and the Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson High School Marching Bands.
Ahead of the grand marshals, a Ford Mustang was decorated with signatures of families who donated to the Wounded Warriors project.
The oldest grand marshal was Merle Bridges at 97-years-old. He was recognized for his service in World War II. He joined the Iowa National Guard in 1939. He later enlisted in the Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor, where he was stationed on the USS Pensacola. The Pensacola, nicknamed the Grey Ghost, was the most heavily armed battle cruiser in the war, and fought in most of the South Pacific battles, including Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Bridges was awarded a Silver Star and four Bronze Stars.
Fellow Honoree Don Frederickson, 88, served from 1945-1948 in the Navy during World War II. He served as a machinist's mate on the USS Delphinius, USS Weiss, and USS Catamount. The Weiss was honored to be the escort vessel for President Harry Truman's ship. On one trip, Truman came aboard and shook hands with the crew and thanked them. Frederickson later served in the American Legion and Honor Guard and became a chaplain.
Veteran Joseph McGinn, 86, was drafted into the Army in 1952 and later served in Korea. He received the American Spirit Honor Medal during his training at Fort Bliss. He provided support for infantry and was stationed near the 38th parallel, where the Demilitarized Zone was later established. After the war, he remained in the Army Reserves for 7 years.
Bill Ballenger, 79, spent his Army career in the states due to concerns officials had about deploying farmers. He spent four years in the ROTC during his time in college, and started active duty in the U.S. Army in 1959 working in vehicle maintenance and training. Though never deployed, he retired as a colonel in 1989 and has helped organize and raise money for Honor Flights from Omaha and Des Moines to Washington D.C.
Mick Gattau served in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army. He was Army Cadet brigade commander of his ROTC during his time at Iowa State University. After the Vietnam War, he became an instructor pilot in the Nebraska Army National Guard.
The youngest grand marshal to be honored was Iowa State Senator Joni Ernst at 46-years-old. Ernst was also an ROTC graduate who later joined the reserves. She served in Kuwait and Iraq as the company commander of forces from the Iowa National Guard.
Ernst said of the parade, "It's really exciting to be here with so many wonderful men and women t hat have given so much for their country, and I'm glad that the community is coming out to honor them, so we're thankful for that."