Nov. 6, 2010, dawned bright and beautiful. My wife, Ruth said the sky was as blue as Paul Newman’s eyes (I wouldn’t know!). We were in Denver CO, to ride in their Veterans Day parade, the largest ever put on in that city. The Rockies’ tallest peaks had plenty of snow but in downtown Denver, it was a balmy 70 degrees.
I wore my WWII uniform with my 99th Checkerboard patch. When my son and I arrived at the parade area, there were about a dozen guys – re-enactors – with the Checkerboard patch on their sleeves. Our son had bought them and passed them out to members of his Military Vehicle Club of Colorado, who were driving their various military vehicles in the parade.
They had done this in my honor! How proud I was to see those patches. One of the men in the club had a WWII jeep and the guys decided that was the vehicle I should ride in. After a 38-gun salute by the Colorado National Guard, a flyover by jets from nearby Colorado Springs, the National Anthem, and a prayer, the parade got started. Flags, bands, marching units from the Colorado National Guard and several ROTC units from nearby high schools, many military vehicles … it was a day I will never forget.
Two National Guard officers rode in the rear seat of my jeep. When the jeep reached the reviewing stand, the men asked our driver to stop and they got out saying, “Sgt. Waldrep, please join us on the reviewing stand.” Then they escorted me right up those steps on the stand were another WWII veteran had been taken. He was a 90-year-old Medal of Honor recipient. What an honor for me to be seated next to him. He had fought in Italy. We had a great time visiting. With us on the stand was the governor of Colorado and other dignitaries, plus officers of the Colorado National Guard. We watched the parade from a very special place of honor. I felt I stood there for every member of the 99th Infantry Division. I wish all of you could have been there. It was a day I will never forget.
After the parade was over, our son, Jim’s military vehicle club had lunch together and couldn’t get enough of my war stories. It was unbelievable the interest and respect shown me as a WWII veteran. I was humbled and pretty much overwhelmed. I knew I was representing every WWII veteran, both dead and alive.
My wife told me when I was introduced over the loud speaker, a young mother standing on the street next to her with her young son said, “Look at that man, there aren’t many of them left.” I know we are getting fewer by the day. I just wish every veteran from every war could have enjoyed that day with me.
I remembered as I heard some of the units shouting out there calls, that our 99th Company E buddy, Mickey Smith had taught us to say, “When you’re up, you’re up; when you’re down, you’re up against Company E, you’re upside down.” Brought back lots of memories of Camp Maxey and the many guys I fought with through the Battle of the Bulge and on into Germany.
Our son made this day possible for me. It will never be forgotten.
Robert Waldrep E/393
902 N Main, #23
San Angelo TX 76903