The Fourth of July celebrates independence for the United States, something that has had to be defended with the lives of its sons and daughters in the almost 235 years since.
The 2011 Northland Community Council Fourth of July Parade will place special emphasis on thanking the veterans of World War II for the part they played in defending that freedom.
"This year, the Northland Community Parade will focus on our military heroes from WWII," council president Emmanuel V. Remy wrote in an email to civic association leaders on May 7. "Of course, all military are welcome to participate in the parade, (but) we want to make sure we honor our WWII veterans first."
"We've got about a dozen vets so far who are committed to riding in the parade," Remy said last week. "In the next month, we're really going to push hard to bolster that number, but I'm encouraged that people are so responsive so far."
Many civic leaders in the Northland area are actively pursuing possible other veterans to be feted, he added.
A special banner is being created for the veterans' entry, according to parade committee chairman George Schmidt.
The banner will offer people whose World War II soldiers or sailors or marines or members of some other branch of the service are no longer alive an opportunity to commemorate them as well as those who are still among the living, Schmidt said.
At the outset of the parade, people will have an opportunity to write the names of any relatives who were in World War II on the banner with permanent markers, he said.
The banner will be on display during the Columbus Square Classic Car Show, which will take place again this year at the conclusion of the parade. Those attending the show will also be able to write the names of relatives on the banners, Schmidt said.
The banner will then continue to be displayed during the weekly summer Farmers Market to be held at the shopping center beginning on July 5.
"I think, all in all, we're just trying to celebrate what a great parade this is and explore some new ground for us," Remy said. "Recognizing the military is a very important aspect of the parade and something we should really sort of emphasize."
Current estimates are that slightly fewer than 2 million of the 16 million veterans of World War II are still alive, according to the website of the National World War II Museum.
"According to statistics released by the Veterans Administration, our World War II vets are dying at a rate of 900 a day," the site says. "Previous studies listed 1,200 (a day) but the number has declined due to a decrease in the total number of World War II veterans."
It is estimated the number of veterans remaining alive will be fewer than 1 million by 2016, according to the website.