By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Every year during the Mum Parade, a number of military veterans in Bristol fill the streets represent a veterans’ organization they serve in. But this year, a group of local veteran leaders and the Mum Festival Committee have decided to try something new in an effort to recognize all Bristol veterans, including those who currently do not belong to a veteran’s organization.
This year, all men and women of Bristol who served in the military are invited to march together in one, large group during the Mum Parade, which takes place this Sunday.
Tim Gamache, former chairman of the Bristol Veterans Council, said part of the idea stemmed from Jack Ferraro, co-chair of the Mum Parade Committee, who brought up the idea. After the idea received support from the Bristol Veterans Council, Gamache, along with fellow veteran Dave Carello, has reached out to the community about the new initiative.
“We never really attempted to do this before,” said Gamache, adding that having a large group of veterans marching in the parade will make a major impact on the community instead of breaking up the veterans by each organization they represent. “One of every 10 people in the city of Bristol is a veteran.”
Gamache said the idea is not only to recognize Bristol veterans who already serve in the city’s seven or eight veteran organizations, but also to honor those who are not members of a veterans’ organization.
“We’d like to think of it as giving them an opportunity to be recognized,” said Gamache, adding he would like to see veterans who served during all wars, especially the most recent group of OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) and OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom) veterans. “It’s the biggest parade of the year—it’s usually the biggest crowd of the year.”
Pat Nelligan, former chairman of the Bristol Veteran’s Council, said considering Bristol’s large population of veterans, it is a good idea to show the community how many people actually served their country.
“With one tenth of Bristol’s population having veteran status, it will be a good thing to show Bristol residents how many of us there are and perhaps who we are,” said Nelligan. “Oftentimes when veterans march with their particular organization the representation is less because not every veteran belongs to one or participates in events like the parade. To have a good turnout of veterans for the parade will add a nice aspect to what the parade represents regarding our city’s history and roots.”
Gamache recalled how he did not become a member of a veterans organization until he retired in 1997. After getting involved in a number of groups, including Disabled American Veterans, the Polish Legion of American Veterans, the Franco American War Veterans, and the Korean War Veterans Association, Gamache said he found himself continuously involved.
From the American Legion to the VFW to the Elks Club, among other groups, Gamache said Bristol offers a number of different veteran organizations, and hopes the Bristol veterans who decide to march in the Mum Parade may be inspired to get more involved.
“We’re trying to get the latest bunch of veterans to get involved,” said Gamache, adding how active these groups are with fundraising, volunteering in various activities, and offering scholarships.
Gamache added that this new initiative is not gender-specific, and encourages all women to participate as well.
“If you wore a uniform, you are a veteran,” said Gamache. “Women play a huge role in today’s military.”
“In my area of service in Afghanistan…we had female medics and female medical professionals who did a magnificent job,” added Carello, a member of the American Legion, VFW, and PLAV, and Korean War Veterans Association
Looking ahead, Gamache said the hope is for all Bristol veterans to march together in the Mum Parade every year.
“Rather than the veterans of the city being there as a group of their singular organizations, to be there simply as Bristol veterans,” said Gamache. “If we could put all of the [Bristol] veterans… into that parade…we could probably comprise an entire division for that parade by ourselves.”
To date, a few World War II veterans came forward to show their interest in participating in the parade. During World War II, one of every four people in Bristol, said Gamache.
Veterans who wish to participate in the parade but have mobility problems are still welcome, and transportation will be provided for them. Anyone who wants to provide transportation for veterans who cannot march can show up at 12:30 p.m. on the corner of Race Street and North Main Street. Uniforms are not required to be worn during the parade. Walk-ins are welcomed.
For more information, contact Tim Gamache at (860) 977-2152 or Jack Ferraro at (860) 585-6748.
Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.
By LISA CAPOBIANCO