TOMS RIVER – The Ocean County Veterans Day parade, which was scheduled to march through downtown Toms River, was called off on account of rain.
Certainly, soldiers who had seen combat and been deployed into hostile situations have dealt with worse than rain, but it was really more about the children coming out to the event, officials said.
Bob Larned, the chairman of the Toms River Township Veterans Commission, said that there were veterans ready to march. And those who have trouble marching are transported on vehicles through the parade.
“There were a number of seniors who showed up. Some were ready to go regardless of the weather,” he said. There were definitely people upset that the parade was cancelled. The issue really came back to the school system.
There were seven school bands scheduled to perform and about 1,000 children that were going to be bused over to see the parade, he said.
The health and safety of the kids was the most important thing “and we couldn’t ask them to sit out in the rain for an hour,” he said.
The school involvement is why the parade was held on a Monday rather than on Saturday, which was actually Veterans Day, he added. They can provide the busing on a Monday easier than on a Saturday.
“It makes a big difference, having the children there,” he said. Hopefully, it’s a learning experience for them.
Sadly, if the school doesn’t send children, there aren’t too many people who will turn out for the parade, said Mike Schaffer, commander of the American Legion Post 129.
“If we knew that 10,000 people would be out there, it would’ve been handled differently,” he said.
Both Schaffer and Larned said that the township and the governing body has been very good to the veterans community.
The date of the New Jersey Education Association’s convention was changed so that it wound up close to Veterans Day, Mayor Thomas Kelaher said. This made it harder to coordinate the date. Schools had an entire week off, since the Thursday and Friday that was off for the teachers’ convention fell right after the Tuesday that was off for Election Day.
“It’s not the best idea because it’s a weekday. The weekend would be less traffic,” Kelaher said.
The township tried to have a smaller event inside in response to the rain, he said. He wound up hosting a group of JROTC students.
Toms River Superintendent David Healy said the district was not involved in the organization of the parade, but that the students and teachers are very active participants.
“It’s something we all look forward to every year,” he said.
There’s an educational value to the students participating in the parade. They learn about the sacrifices that veterans made and learn to appreciate their service, he said. In the past, veterans have asked him about why the school doesn’t close on Veterans Day. When he explained that the children take part in the parade and learn about veterans, they appreciate it more.
“It’s the best way to celebrate (Veterans Day) because they actively participate, rather than sit home on a holiday,” he said.
Veterans Day will be on a Sunday next year, so the parade will likely be on Monday the 12th in 2018, he said. After 2018, Nov. 11 will fall on weekdays until 2023 (because of a leap year).