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Northern Utah Veterans Day Parade on hiatus during pandemic

By Mitch Shaw standard-Examiner - | Nov 4, 2020

LAYTON — For the first time in nearly a decade and a half, there will be no Northern Utah Veterans Day parade.

Dennis Howland, a Vietnam combat veteran, longtime veterans advocate and chief organizer of the annual parade, said the COVID-19 pandemic will put a halt to the 2020 celebration.

“We obviously wanted to do it,” Howland said. “But with the way things are going right now, with COVID, it just wasn’t possible.”

According the Weber-Morgan Health Department, the two-county area reported 882 new cases of COVID-19 for the week ending Oct. 31, the fourth consecutive week a record high of new cases has been reported. The Davis County Health Department has reported an average of 142 new cases per day over the past week.

The veterans parade has been held every year in Northern Utah since 2006. Typically held on or near Nov. 11, the parade regularly features thousands of spectators and hundreds of participants.

Hosted by Vietnam Veterans of America and Associates, the Fleet Reserve Association and Layton City, in years past the event has featured a 57,000-pound Utah National Guard Paladin howitzer tank. Other vintage military vehicles, as well as high school Junior ROTC units, high school bands, members of the Utah Military Academy, equipment and personnel from Hill Air Force Base are also typically seen at the celebration.

After 11 years in Ogden, the parade was moved to Layton in 2017, concluding at Utah’s replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Approximately 80% the size of the original national Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C., the replica wall sits on the northeast corner of Layton Commons Park, 437 N. Wasatch Drive. Like the wall in Washington, the 360-foot-long Davis County memorial features the names — etched in stone — of all 58,000-plus Americans who died fighting in Vietnam.

Howland said a small ceremony will be held at the wall this year, at 11:11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11 — a nod to the exact moment the World War I armistice was signed nearly 102 years ago, on Nov. 11, 1918. The armistice officially ended combat in the war and Armistice Day became an annual holiday in the United States. The holiday was eventually renamed Veterans Day to honor those who participated in all of America’s wars.

“It’s going to be small ceremony, where we can do the proper social distancing,” Howland said. “We kind of figure, it’s better than nothing at all. People are pretty disappointed about the parade and I’m kind of sad about it myself. It’s always been a way for us to publicly honor our veterans. Hopefully we’ll get back to normal in 2021.”

According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, there were just under 15,000 veterans living in Weber County between 2012 and 2016. There were another 18,000 vets in Davis County and even more scattered in smaller counties like Box Elder, Morgan, Cache and Rich. At last count, the total number of veterans living in Utah’s six most northern counties was just over 40,000.

And that number might be even larger because the total number of veterans actually living in the state is a matter of debate.

The most current numbers from the Census Bureau show Utah’s statewide veteran population to be around 144,000, made up of men and women who served in every major U.S. conflict from World War II to the ongoing war in Afghanistan. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says the state has around 152,000 veterans. But an independent Utah database, which uses the Utah Department of Information Technology and analyzes information from the Department of Workforce Services and the Utah Drivers License Division, shows the state has more than 180,000 veterans.

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