MONTICELLO — Hundreds of volunteers began setting the stage early Saturday morning for the 14th annual “Honor Our Military Patriotic Boat Parade.”
The organizers and volunteers worked for months to ensure the event was perfect for the veterans and community members.
More than 200 volunteers are involved between the Madam Carroll, the Sportsman Inn, and during the “Celebration in the Park” at Monticello City Park.
Members of the Indiana Patriot Guard posted 100 American flags along both sides of the Bill Luse bridge near the Madam Carroll beginning at 5:30 a.m.
Members of Monticello AMVETS Post 91 arrived at the Madam Carroll at 6:30 a.m. to assist with preparations for the day’s festivities, which included preparing freshly brewed coffee for the hundreds of guests.
Some members from the riders group at the AMVETS post also met up with busloads of veterans from the Indiana Veterans Home and escorted them to the Madam.
Local veterans and their guests were greeted by members of the American Legion Post 81 Ladies Auxiliary and were given a poppy.
Members of the Twin Lakes High School cheerleading squad helped register the veterans before they made their way across the gangplank of the Madam Carroll.
During the registration process, the grand marshals were also given a medallion and a proclamation signed by David Eisenhower.
Each guest also had their photograph taken with Monticello Mayor Ken Houston.
Girl Scout Liz Brobst passed out 400 boxes of Girl Scout cookies with the assistance of the White County Goat Club and other volunteers.
Other gifts that were presented to the guests before boarding the Madam Carroll were cloth Walmart bags, a coupon for a free squeeze freeze from Family Express, and a small American flag to wave while on the three-hour cruise.
Once on the Madam Carroll, guests were invited to indulge on glazed donuts from Kinser’s Bakery and chocolate chip cookies from McDonalds. Freshly brewed coffee was also available.
The Madam Carroll also had refreshments and food items such as pretzels and popcorn available for purchase during the cruise.
On the main deck, DJ “Huddy” played tunes for those to enjoy or even dance along to, such as Lee Greenwoods “God Bless the USA” and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” Moving up to the next level of the Madam were the Swampwater Stompers, a traditional New Orleans Dixieland band.
The “Honor Our Military Patriotic Boat Parade” began with members of the Monticello Veterans Honor Guard as they made their entrance down the ramp leading to the deck. Once positioned alongside the ship, they posted the colors, performed “Volleys of Three” and played “Taps.”
Closing out the shipside ceremony was Nancy Sattler singing “Amazing Grace,” Butch Kramer singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and retired Col. LeLand McReynolds concluding with the benediction.
This year’s boat parade grand marshals were veterans from World War II and the Korean War. Of those guests were the Shafer family — Charles Sr., Charles Jr., and wife Sheila. Shaffer Sr. served in the US. Army during the Korean War.
“When I was a kid at the age of 15, I joined the Civil Air Patrol in Fort Wayne. At 17, I signed up for the Army Medical Corp. At 17, I arrived at Fort Knox and I arrived at 2-3 in the morning,” Shafer Sr. said.
Shafer was taken to the clothing barracks where he said they made him strip down to nothing, after which he was given new clothing and a pair of shoes that he said were too small for him. Even after telling the gentleman that they did not fit, he said the staff sergeant wouldn’t listen to him.
“As a recruit talking to a staff sergeant, you just don’t talk back to them, so I was stuck with those shoes for three years,” Shafer said. “I couldn’t trade them off or anything.”
Shafer was first assigned to work as a medic in Hawaii. While he was stationed there, he recalled picking up casualties every day that were brought in from Korea and taking them to the hospital. He also recalled giving the wounded a meal and their payday. The next day, Shaffer said they put the injured soldiers onto planes.
His last duty station was Camp Atterbury, Indiana, where Shafer was a corporal and served six months before being discharged Dec. 2, 1952.
Shafer has been a part of the Honor Our Military Patriotic Boat Parade every year, he said, adding that the parade is “good” and he “enjoys it very much.”
Shafer was also a member of the Monticello Veterans Honor Guard for nearly 15 years, but had to step away two years ago for health reasons.