LIHUE — “I made it!” J.Q. Smith said Saturday under the shade of a monkeypod tree at the Historic County Building. “I’m 91 years old, and I wanted to march in the parade.”
Smith, a U.S. Marine, will turn 91 years old on Nov. 10, the same date as the U.S. Marine Corps’ birthday.
Smith took his place among those marching for the Kauai Vet Center, one of more than 50 units in the annual Veterans Day Parade hosted by the Kauai Veterans Council before hundreds of people who lined Rice Street to honor veterans and active-service military personnel.
“He’s a veteran of three wars,” a spectator said. “He’ll do the parade at his own pace, and he’ll finish.”
Smith did indeed march the parade at his own pace, being passed by other parade units, including several bands from the high schools and intermediate schools.
“This is great to see everyone come out in support of veterans,” said Ed Kawamura Sr., commandant of the Kauai Veterans Council. “Today we see a lot of young people being inspired for the future.”
Kauai Fire Department Chief Robert Westerman and Kauai Council Chair Mel Rapozo served as grand marshals.
Westerman, a Vietnam War veteran, said it is natural for veterans to be involved in the community.
“One thing about veterans is to give back to the community,” Westerman said. “It’s the nature of a veteran. There are many in the community who continue to provide service, and people don’t know they are veterans.”
Rapozo, retired from the Air Force, said he was honored to be selected a grand marshal, and spoke of respect for the American flag.
The Kauai Veterans Council hosts its Veterans Day service on Saturday — the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month — at the Kauai Veterans Cemetery in Hanapepe.