Johnson County’s 25th Veterans Day observance anniversary will spill out into the streets of downtown Olathe on Friday, Nov. 11.
The ceremony, sponsored by Johnson County government, salutes all veterans, past and present.
The public event will celebrate the silver anniversary of the county-sponsored Veterans Day observance and honor the 7-158th Aviation Regiment at the New Century AirCenter near Gardner.
The unit lost three soldiers – Specialist Spencer Duncan, a 2008 Olathe South High School graduate; Specialist Alexander Bennett, Overland Park; and Chief Warrant Officer Brian Nichols, Kansas City – on Aug. 6 when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan, killing 23 Americans and seven Afghanistan servicemen.
The 2011 observance in partnership with the City of Olathe, Earl Collier American Legion Post 153 in Olathe, and other local veteran organizations will include the county’s first Veterans Day Parade.
Participants in the parade will be welcomed from throughout Johnson County, and the possibilities for the event are still being worked out.
The parade will start at approximately 10 a.m. near the corner of Kansas Avenue and Chestnut Street, traveling south on Kansas Avenue, turning east on Dennis Avenue, and ending at Veterans Memorial Park located at the corner of Dennis Avenue and Harrison Street for the Veterans Day program.
Anticipated parade participants include the Johnson County Sheriff’s Color Guard; color guards from local veteran organizations, law enforcement agencies, and military units; motorcyclists from the American Legion Riders; vintage military vehicles; and local students.
The 2011 Veterans Day program begins at 11 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial Park. Featured speakers include:
• Craig Wehr, rear detachment first sergeant for the 7-158th Aviation Regiment and a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom; and,
• Megan Duncan, Olathe, Spencer’s mother.
Ed Eilert, chairman of the Johnson County Board of Commissioners, will emcee the program.
The event will feature dedication of a memorial bench in honor of Spec. Spencer Duncan at the memorial park.
Invited special guests include family members of Spec. Duncan, Spec. Bennett, and Chief Warrant Officer Nichols.
The ceremony also will honor Sgt. Ezekiel Crozier and Spec. Kirk Kuykendall, both of Overland Park,members of the 7-158th who were wounded on June 25 in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
The 2011 Veterans Day program features:
• Patriotic music by band students from Olathe North High School;.
• Special songs by Kristin and Melissa Gaddis of Olathe.
• Special dancing by the Kansas City Bettys, who perform an Andrew Sisters routine to the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.
• Presentation of colors by the Sheriff’s Color Guard and colors of support by local veteran organizations;.
• Rifle salute, bagpiper, and playing of “Echo Taps.”
• Placement of memorial wreaths by members of local veterans organizations.
• Scores of American flags.
Johnson County’s annual Veterans Day observance began in 1987 with public services on the south steps of the Johnson County Courthouse in downtown Olathe before moving to the Kansas National Armory in west Olathe from 1995 to 2006.
Since 2007, the county event has occurred at veteran memorial sites throughout Johnson County, including the cities of Overland Park, Merriam, and Gardner and the New Century AirCenter.
The offices of Johnson County government and Olathe City Hall will be closed Friday, Nov. 11, in observance of Veterans Day.
Details of the 2011 Veterans Day event will be posted in early November on the main Johnson County website at www.jocogov.org.