Val Lerch recalls the first time volunteers raised funds to organize a Veterans Parade in Long Beach – more than 18 years ago.
“We actually passed a hat around at our first meeting, and people donated dollars and change,” said Lerch, who has been a part of the parade committee every year and is this year’s chair. “We had a small, but passionate group, and we were committed to bringing something to Southern California to honor and recognize our local vets.”
Today, the Long Beach parade is a premiere Southern California event, drawing upwards of 25,000 parade attendees, and an estimated 200-plus entrants.
The 19th Annual Long Beach Veterans Parade, to be held on Nov. 7 with a 10 a.m. start, runs from Atlantic Ave. to Harding to 56th St., and typically takes about two hours. The organizing team is especially excited to feature two special centenarian grand marshals to lead the festivities.
ADC Clifford Chaffee, born in 1915 in Kansas, moved to Long Beach as a boy and attended Franklin Jr. High and Poly High before joining the United States Navy in 1933. He served in World War II in the aircraft service at Roy Namur Island, repairing damaged planes from various aircraft carriers and battle groups. He also served during the Korean conflict on the USS Essex aircraft carrier. He retired and transferred to the Fleet Reserve in 1954 and was a member of the Fleet Reserve Association for 74 years.
Allan Kobrick, the other grand marshal, was born in 1915 and raised in New York. He enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and helped establish a Navy base in Bahia, Brazil. He obtained the rank of Yeoman First Class before his honorable discharge in 1945. He moved to Long Beach in 1948 and worked as a printer until his retirement in the 1980s.
“Both of these men gave so much to their country to protect us and our rights,” said LA County Supervisor Don Knabe. “I love this annual parade as a way to recognize the tremendous service and sacrifices of all our veterans, and I’m especially excited to see these two special men celebrated for their service and commitment to our country and community.”
Lerch notes that through the years, veterans have come up to him to express their gratitude for the parade and the recognition it brings to our servicemen and women.
“After our very first parade, a Vietnam vet told me this was the very first time he was honored for his service,” said Lerch. “Vets from that era never really received a warm welcome home, and he took great pride in being able to participate in this particular parade. It’s important we honor the individuals who gave their time and lives to protect our country – and I’m glad the City of Long Beach is doing its part to recognize our vets in Southern California.”
To learn more about the parade route, visit www.lbveteransdayparade.com.