Organizers have decided on the theme of “America the Beautiful” to honor U.S. veterans at the annual Grand Parade set for Feb. 7 in downtown Whitefish. More than a dozen veterans from each branch of the military will be honored as grand marshals.
“We’ve tried to get some representation from every branch and every conflict, from World War II forward,” Winter Carnival board member Paul Johannsen said.
Bill Burg has led the effort in recruiting local military members to participate in the parade — a task he was happy to take on.
“The fact that we are saluting all veterans — everyone I’ve asked said they would love to represent their branch,” Burg said.
“We’ll have a wide range of backgrounds — from 70 years ago to the present.”
The Marines will be well represented.
Among the oldest is Bill Fratt of Kalispell, who served in the Marines during World War II. He retired as a private first class with three Purple Hearts.
Also representing the Marines are Don Kaltschmidt and Ret. Capt. Wayne Bolton, 82, who is a survivor of the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War.
Retired Navy SEAL commander Ryan Zinke made a commitment to participate in the parade prior to being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Burg said Zinke will honor that promise and return to Whitefish for the weekend of festivities.
Wayne Marshall also will represent the Navy.
Tim Grattan will represent the Army, having served during the Vietnam War as a military adviser. Grattan later developed Grouse Mountain Lodge and the south course at Whitefish Lake Golf Club.
Leslie Washer and Ray Riel will represent the Air Force.
The National Guard will be represented by Farren Spivey and Jody Spivey and the Coast Guard by Jim Morrell.
A bus from the Montana Veterans Home in Columbia Falls will be featured in the parade, and the Military Order of the Cooties will march in uniform. The order is a nonprofit veterans service organization also known as “The Honor Degree of the VFW.”
Among the parade entries will be a Bradley fighting vehicle from the National Guard and other military vehicles.