Memorial Day parade in Portage a ‘celebrated tradition’

PORTAGE – Frank Dorbin has been recognized in many ways through the years for his participation in World War II, but being selected as grand marshal of Monday’s annual Memorial Day parade in Portage was a high honor for the Vicksburg resident.

“It was a privilege to serve our country … it’s an honor to be here and represent the veterans who are no longer with us,” the 88-year-old, three-time purple-heart honoree said.

A decorated athlete while at Vicksburg High School, Dorbin spent his career at Upjohn after his two-year stint with the Army, which ended in 1945.

All eyes were on him Monday, as nearly 2,000 spectators lined Westnedge Avenue for the city’s annual Memorial Day parade. The hour-long procession featured about 100 entries.

Mayor Pete Strazdas said the Memorial Day parade is a great tradition in Portage. he said the event has a long history and is the city’s way of recognizing members of the military who died defending the nation.

“The Memorial Day parade in Portage reflects the community values we embrace as leaders of this city,” Strazdas said. “This is our biggest parade annually … it costs us some overtime for police coverage, but it’s an important and celebrated tradition.”

Kalamazoo resident Rosemary McMullen said Monday was the first time in many years she was not in the parade. As a Girl Scout troop leader, McMullen said she was looking forward to sitting out this year and enjoying the event.

Like Strazdas, McMullen said she hasn’t lost sight of the meaning behind the parade.

“everything about this day is an acknowledgment of our military, people who have fought for our freedom and died for our freedom,” McMullen said. “We’re very fortunate as a country.”

Vicksburg resident Roger Baker, 69, was one of a number of representatives from Portage-based VFW Post 5855. he said the city’s annual parade is a tribute to military members who gave the ultimate sacrifice to defend their country.

He said the Portage VFW has long been a part of the Portage Memorial Day parade. Baker, an Army veteran whose first of two tours in Vietnam began on Christmas Day in 1966, said it’s a relationship he expects to continue for decades.

“People see us in our uniforms here today and cheer for us, but I don’t want to be recognized, the cheering goes to the people who couldn’t be here today … who died in combat or veterans who have passed away,” Baker said. “they are the heroes.”

Baker said he never takes for granted being in good health, for having served in Vietnam and returned home safely, and for events such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day, when the country pauses to recognize soldiers past and current.

“It’s a solemn day for a lot of people,” he said. “It’s not just a day off from work and a day to cook out or go to the lake, it’s a day to remember.”

Memorial Day parade in Portage a ‘celebrated tradition’

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