Vietnam vet to lead Memorial Day parade Monday, May 27
Legionnaire Earle Thatcher Sr. will lead the Memorial Day parade as grand marshal when it steps off at 10:30 a.m. Monday, May 27.
Thatcher, 68, will serve at the helm of the 50-unit procession of veterans, dignitaries and bands along the milelong parade course, which begins at Captain Thomas Boulevard and flows up Campbell Avenue to Center Street.
An Army veteran of the Vietnam War, he embraced the honor with typical humility.
“I feel very proud to lead the parade,” said Thatcher, a member of Hughson-Miller Post 71 of the American Legion. “I want to thank everybody for electing me as grand marshal. It’s a real big honor.”
Thatcher was selected by the Veterans Council, which helps the city organize the annual parade, for his years of service to the Army and his fellow vets.
Thatcher’s contributions to Post 71 are well-known. He is sergeant major of the post and is chairman of its Sons of the American Legion.
This year’s edition of southern Connecticut’s oldest and largest parade of its kind will feature three marching divisions and a military division, as well as special accommodations for disabled veterans.
The procession will include an eight-seat golf cart carrying former grand marshals that’s bedecked with a star gracing the names of those deceased. Other veterans will ride on a float.
On Jan. 12, 1962, U.S. Army pilots lifted more than 1,000 South Vietnamese service members over jungle and underbrush to capture a National Liberation Front stronghold near Saigon. Operation Chopper marked America’s first combat mission against the Viet Cong — and the beginning of one of its longest and most challenging wars.
The Vietnam War is a story of service members of different backgrounds, colors and creeds who came together to complete a daunting mission. It is a story of Americans from every corner of the nation who left the warmth of family to serve the country they loved. It is a story of patriots who pushed through jungles and rice paddies, heat and monsoon, fighting heroically to preserve the ideals and liberties Americans hold dear.
From la Drang to Hue, U.S. troops won every major battle of the war. Through more than a decade of combat, over air, land and sea, they upheld the highest traditions of the armed forces. And more than 58,000 sacrificed all they had and all they would ever know in service to their nation.
Born in New Haven in 1945, Thatcher grew up on Goodhue Street in West Haven, next to the highway maintenance garage, before moving to California Street, which then flanked the Virginia Reel as part of the Savin Rock amusement park.
He attended public schools, including West Haven High School. Although he left high school early on to enlist, he later earned his GED diploma in the Army.
According to Thatcher, his 12 years of active-duty service included 18-month posts while stationed in Vietnam and Korea, respectively, during much of the 1960s.
He also served two years and eight months in Bindlach, Germany, and stateside for two years at the Aberdeen Proving Ground test facility in northeastern Maryland.
Thatcher was honorably discharged Sept. 19, 1975, and received the National Defense Service Medal and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.
He is a member of the Masons of Annawon Lodge 115.
Thatcher now lives on Third Avenue with his wife of 48 years, Nancy. They have two children, Earle Thatcher Jr., of Wallingford, and Tammy Silva, of West Haven.
The parade will commence with a flyover by a fixed-wing aircraft. Thatcher will steer the procession from a convertible flanked by the West Haven Police Color Guard.
The hourlong event, in memory of the deceased members of the U.S. armed forces of all wars, will showcase an array of veterans groups, such as AMVETS, Jewish War Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America and the Legion.
It will include the 103rd Air Control Squadron and the West Haven Coast Guard Auxiliary.
If it rains, the parade will take place at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 2.
The procession will consist of four marching bands: West Haven High, Bailey Middle School, the New Haven County Firefighters Emerald Society and the Connecticut Alumni Drum and Bugle Corps.
It will also spotlight the traditional contingent of youth organizations and sports leagues, dance and Scout troupes, fraternal organizations and service clubs, local and state leaders, and police officers and firefighters.
West Haven Historical Society gala to re-create Roaring ’20s
The West Haven Historical Society will sponsor a Gatsby Gala from 4-8 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at the Poli House, 686 Savin Ave., to re-create the atmosphere of the Roaring ’20s.
The “journey back in time” will feature 1920s lawn games, such as badminton and croquet, and dancing to the jazz music of the era.
The event will include food and refreshments that evoke the opulence set in the 1925 F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, “The Great Gatsby.”
Tickets, which cost $50, are available by calling Sandy McCauley at 203-934-3161.
Guests are encouraged to wear period dress for the gala, which benefits the Historical Society.
Guests will also have an opportunity to tour the garden of the Poli House, built in 1917 and now owned by the society, with its spacious lawn, flowering trees and shrubs.
West Haven sets summer concert series
The city’s summer concert series will kick off June 7 on the Green with classic rock music played by Annie and the Mixers.
The two-hour concerts are free and begin at 7 p.m., with the exception of the final show, a benefit for the Friends of Fisher House CT, which starts at 6:30 p.m.
The annual Friday night concert series will follow with classic rock hits by the Nathan Ward Band June 14 on the Green, oldies by Sound Alternative June 21 on the Green and the Memphis Soul Spectacular June 28 in Old Grove Park. Band of Brothers will perform jazz standards on the Green July 5, followed by the funk of Avenue Groove July 12 in the Old Grove and oldies by Vinnie Carr and the Party Band July 19 on the Green. The diverse lineup will continue with dance rock anthems by Cover Story Aug. 2 and the Paul King Orchestra Aug. 9, both in the Grove.
The concert series will close Aug. 16 in the Grove with a special twin bill featuring party rock hits by Déjà Vu at 6:30 p.m., followed by Shaded Soul at 7:45. The show is being held in support of the Friends of Fisher House, which aims to raise $3 million to build a “comfort house” at the Veterans Affairs medical center for 20 families to stay. With several dozen built nationwide since 1993, Fisher Houses are designed to provide lodging for the families of wounded service members staying at VAs or other military hospitals and for veterans receiving outpatient treatment and their families.
Concerts postponed by rain will move to the same time and venue the following Monday. For rescheduling information, visit the Department of Parks and Recreation website, www.whparkrec.com
, or call the info line at 203-937-3677 after 4 p.m. the day of the concert.
— MICHAEL P. WALSH, Public Information Officer