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Fresno Veterans Day Parade: Project seeks to capture memories, meaning

Nov 19, 2014 04:08PM ● Published by Cen Cali Life Magazine

Gallery: Fresno Veterans Day Parade: Project seeks to capture memories, meaning [6 Images] Click any image to expand.

Fresno Veterans Day Parade: Project seeks to capture memories, meaning

by Jason Smithberg

Photos courtesy of Catherine Reece/Fresno Veterans Day Parade

Every Nov. 11 for more than 90 years, the streets of downtown Fresno have been lined with thousands of people honoring and paying their respects to the men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. The celebration is one of the largest Veterans Day parades in the country and the only one to be televised worldwide on the Pentagon Channel.

This year, thanks to a $10,000 grant, the Fresno County Library will be partnering with local veterans and media organizations to capture a few of these individuals’ stories in a special oral history project.

According to Cal Humanities, which awarded the grant through the National Endowment for the Humanities, “Memories & Meaning: Fresno’s Veterans Day Parade” will tell the stories of 20 ethnically diverse Fresno veterans who served during different eras.

“We have such a huge population of veterans that the Veterans Day Parade has become an important fixture in the community,” said parade coordinator Lisa Tripp. (More than 45,000 veterans call Fresno County home.) “Anything that gives attention to the veterans and honors them, I think it’s a huge bonus." 

Nance Espinosa, project director and head of the Fresno County Public Library’s special collections department, shares Tripp’s view.

“They need all of the respect they deserve, and more,” she said of the veterans and the project’s significance. “It’s about appreciation and respect.”

The interviews are being conducted by student volunteers with The kNOw Youth Media, an organization that teaches local young people media skills and gives them a platform to tell stories about themselves and their communities. Interviews are about 10 minutes in length. Afterward, they are trimmed down to 2-3 minute segments.

Tim Haydock, youth media coordinator, is in charge of organizing the student volunteers who conduct the interviews.  

“There’s a sense from the veterans that if they can reach the younger generation with these stories, then it’s a really positive thing,” he said.

David Rodriguez is one veteran who believes that sharing these stories has wide-ranging benefits. He didn’t always think so. In fact, the prospect of sharing his thoughts and experiences was initially a little frightening. But after participating in an interview, Rodriguez, 58, realized he was in a position to help others understand the importance of the parade and the stories it tells about our local veterans.

“Each story is unique and different; those are the ones you want to hear from,” he said.

The Marine Corps veteran is humbled to know that people want to hear his story and the stories of other veterans.

“It makes me feel better that somebody wants to hear [these stories],” Rodriguez said.

The interviews will be used as part of a ceremony honoring the veterans at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District Auditorium on Sunday, Nov. 2 from 2-5 p.m. and they will also be featured at Art Hop on Nov. 7. All the video interviews will eventually be hosted on YouTube and maintained by the Fresno County Public Library’s special collections department.

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The Fresno Veterans Day Parade is Tuesday, Nov. 11. It will start at 11:11 a.m. at Tulare and P streets and end at Chukchansi Park, located at 1800 Tulare Street. For more information about the parade, go to fresnovdp.org or email fresnovdp@gmail.com. The official Facebook page for the event can be found at FresnoVeteransDay.

Jason Smithberg has covered the Fresno State football team for FSBulldogs.com and is currently an on-air personality for Valley Public Radio, FM-89.3.

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