Veterans day, a day of national recognition we set aside to honor all of the men and women who have offered their lives in the military service of their country. 

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11, as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. 

The original concept for the celebration was for a day with parades, public speeches and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m. 

Saturday, Independence honored the veterans as never before in with a variety of activities throughout the day highlighted with a parade downtown honoring our veterans from the city and area. The downtown streets were lined with people coming out in the cold misty weather to honor all those men and women who have served their country. 

In June 2015, amKansas Vietnam Era Veterans Medallion Ceremony where the veterans were awarded medals for their service. As an addition to the ceremony, Kathy Shepard came up with the idea to include a parade of the veterans before the ceremony. 

"I remember watching the parade and how emotional it was. It was then I thought we needed to have an annual Veterans Day Parade," said Lisa Wilson, Independence Chamber of Commerce president. 

Wilson met with Shepard and Doug Harlin, local veteran, to discuss plans to organize a Veterans Day celebration. "Together we put together a committee of 16 to 20 people and conducted meetings every other Tuesday for several months in preparation of the parade," said Wlison.

As the meetings progressed, other activities were added so that when it all came together the Veterans Day Celebration had become an all day event. They added such events as a breakfast for veterans, an avenue of flags, and a 5K fun run, which was already planned by the chamber Pride committee to raise funds for the Celebration Park located at the corner of Penn. Ave. and Chestnut St. 

"We named the 5K run A Run For The Colors and chose November 11 as the day to combine it with the celebration," Wilson stated. 

Another event that happened to coinciding with the Veterans Day celebration was the Independence Community College Military Night game at Shulthis Stadium. "It was perfect because Independence played Coffeyville and it became a countywide military appreciation night. Even though both cities competed on the football field it was a unified effort to honor all of our veterans," Wilson noted. 

Many organizations wanted to be a part of this special day of recognition of our veterans. The Mid-Continent band offered their talents to pay tribute to the veterans as did the American Legion, providing a community bean feed, a car show at the Riverside Park oval and Jefferson School third graders, The Jefferson RIders, rode their bikes behind the American Legion Riders. "Everybody on the committee had really great ideas and it turned into a full day celebrating our real heros- the veterans," Wilson said.

In all of the planning with all the organization wanting to become involved with the Veterans Day celebration, one addition no one expected to materialize was a fly-over by a KC-135. Through the efforts of Shepard and Joel Darbro, retired US Air Force. "The aircraft, a KC-135R Stratotanker, comes for the 190th fueling wing-Kansas National Guard  from Forbes Field in Topeka. This the unit I was in and use to fly a plane like this," said Darbro. 

The plane made its fly-over just after the parade started at 2 p.m. 

One of the most moving sites is the banners that adorn the downtown area street light poles. Each banner recognizes a veteran with a photo of the person, the date they served and the branch of the military they served in. Kathy Shepard discovered this idea when she visited Emporia. "When I was in Emporia they had these banners up all around town and I pulled over to get out of the car to look at them. I kept thinking we need to do this in Independence," said Shepard. It wasn't until Tabitha Snodgrass, Main Street president, returned from a trip to Emporia, who also was intrigued with the concept and contacted Shepard. "I told her I had seen them too and we both decided it would be a good thing to do for Independence," Shepard said, they organized and contacted the city and contacted the military on how they could get permission to use the military service marks. After getting through the red-tape to get permission from the military, they finally received permission to use the marks. 

Approximately 40 banners have been purchased by individuals and hung in the downtown. The military strictly forbids any profit be made off the selling of the banners. The cost for each banner is for the printing. Main Street is taking orders for more military banners to be placed for Memorial Day.