First off, let’s be clear: Veterans Day is different from Memorial Day, which is celebrated in May.
E.A. “Buddy” Grantham is director of the City of Houston’s Office of Veterans Affairs. He says Memorial Day is a day of solemnly remembering the sacrifice soldiers have given to this nation.
“But Veterans Day is an honoring, it is a celebration time. So we always… that’s why we’ve got a big parade. We don’t do a Memorial Day parade. We hold that service and ceremony out at the VA national cemetery. But no, this is about how do we honor and recognize the veterans and say thank you. It’s a different feeling.”
The city’s veterans affairs office has organized that celebration since the office was established in 2007, but there has been an annual parade for the last 15 years.
This year, there will be a focus on veterans of the Korean War, which ended 60 years ago.
“We’ve got over a 120 units of marching bands, military organizations, young kids in high school and middle school — they’re part of leadership programs or Junior ROTC. And then, a wonderful array of veterans of all eras of war out there. And it’s just, it is so gratifying and patriotic to be part of that.”
Also part of the celebration will be a veterans job fair and a health fair with free flu shots and other services. Grantham says he introduced the job fair as part of the event four years ago after seeing the high unemployment numbers for returning vets.
“It smacked me right between the eyes as being wrong. And so what can I do to fix it? Well, I can encourage other organizations to come into town and help me build job fairs etc. but as the city of Houston, we should be doing something also.”
It helps that the city has found sponsors for these events.
Alice Aanstoos is regional vice president for AT&T in Houston, which sponsors the veterans job fair. She says there will be around 40 employers, from McDonald’s to the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“The reason we do that is, first of all military veterans understand team work, they can adapt quickly, they tend to have very strong leadership and technical skills and frankly, the corporate culture is probably pretty familiar to them.”
The fair will give some of the more than 300,000 veterans who live in the Houston area a chance to connect with employers that are committed to hiring vets.
The job fair will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday in front of City Hall, and the parade begins at 12:30 p.m. at Dallas and Bagby streets.