A member of the American Heritage Girls Troop 6279 waives two American flags during the Delaware Veterans Parade held last year in Delaware.

Joshua Keeran | The Gazette

Delaware’s annual celebration of veterans will be held on Sunday, Nov. 5, with the 2023 Delaware Veterans Parade. Under the theme of “welcome home,” the parade will step off from the Delaware County Fairgrounds at 3 p.m. and travel down Pennsylvania Avenue to North Sandusky Street and then through downtown before ending near Wilmer Street.

Parade organizer Margo Litke told The Gazette the parade aims to honor Vietnam veterans, especially those who were killed in action during the conflict. According to Litke, 1o servicemen from Delaware County were killed in the Vietnam conflict, which began in November 1955 and ended in April 1975.

The county residents killed in action include Stephen T. Hepner, Norman R. Anderson, Alan R. Smith, Ronald D. Poole, Robert R. Thompson, James A. Carr, John L. Espenshied, Robert E. Lowe, Larry W. McKee, and Phillip L. Lee.

To honor those who were killed, Litke wants to feature their families in the parade as its honorees. The families of two of the fallen soldiers have been contacted, but Litke is still trying to get in contact with members of the remaining eight families.

Families of those killed in Vietnam who are interested in taking part in the parade can contact Litke at [email protected] or call the Delaware County Veterans Services office at 740-833-2010 for more information.

“We just want them to know to know that they were never forgotten,” Litke said of the importance of getting the families involved. “I was talking to Mayor Carolyn Riggle at the Forever Grateful dinner, and she said those words, that they’ll never be forgotten, and I thought those were the perfect words. A lot of people don’t know how many were killed — I didn’t know until it was brought up to me. It’s important to remember every one of them.”

Litke said honoring the Vietnam veterans in moments like the parade carries added significance considering many of them never received a proper welcome home when they returned, given the country’s landscape at that time.

As has been the case in years past, Litke noted she would still like to get any World War II veterans into the parade to honor a generation of heroes that is almost entirely gone. As of now, Litke said there is one veteran —95-year-old Ross Carlson —who is scheduled to partake in the festivities.

Litke added there are some Korean War veterans signed up for the parade, as well as many living Vietnam veterans. However, she is still hoping to add more veterans of younger generations to round out the show of support for all of America’s heroes.

In addition to all the veterans, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is scheduled to participate. The Delaware Hayes, Buckeye Valley, and Delaware Christian marching bands will march in the parade.

“It’s the highlight of so many of their lives to come out and be recognized,” Litke went on to say. “It’s really touching to watch how excited they get. They’re like a bunch of little kids, and that’s what keeps me coming back for more every year. They’re so appreciative and just want to hear people say thank you for what they gave up.”

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.