Hilliard Division of Police Chief Robert Fisher has led parades before, appearing at or near the front for Hilliard's Independence Day parade every summer since becoming chief four years ago.
But on Monday, Nov. 11, he will lead Hilliard's Veterans Day parade.
The U.S. Coast Guard veteran will be the grand marshal of the annual parade, which will begin at 7 p.m. Nov. 11 at the Franklin County Fairgrounds.
"It's humbling (to be grand marshal), but there are many others who have sacrificed more than me," Fisher said.
Fisher, 49, fulfilled a latent desire to serve his country by enlisting in the Coast Guard at age 30.
He enlisted less than a month before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks changed the nation.
In the summer of 2003, Fisher was part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, stationed in Kuwait near the border of Iraq for six months.
"We provided security for American and international assets at two different ports on the Persian Gulf," Fisher said.
At the time, he and his wife, Regina, had a 6-year-old son, Noah, and a 4-year-old daughter, Kylie.
He said his family rescued a mixed-breed puppy from a shelter they named "Coastie" to provide some solace while Fisher was overseas. As told to him, the puppy jumped into Noah's arms. Noah then worried that someone else might snatch him up while Regina went to an ATM to get the money to adopt Coastie.
Noah, now 22, carries on the family's military service tradition as a corpsman in the U.S. Navy.
Fisher called his experience in Kuwait "rewarding" but also scorching, as temperatures sometimes reached 140 degrees, well above anything he experienced in Huntsville, Alabama, where he attended Virgil I. Grissom High School – named after astronaut Virgil "Gus" Grissom, who, was killed in January 1967 during prelaunch testing for an Apollo space mission – until his father's job brought the family to suburban Cincinnati.
Fisher graduated in 1987 from Lakota High School in West Chester.
Between the NASA culture in Huntsville – home to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center – and the film "Top Gun" that showcased a team of Navy fighter pilots, Fisher said, he dreamed of being an astronaut and then a fighter pilot in the Navy or Air Force.
He had earned an ROTC scholarship but was disheartened to discover that an ear surgery he underwent at the age of 14 disqualified him for fighter-pilot training.
"I thought, 'If I can't fly planes, I don't want to (serve in the military).' As time went by, it was one of those things I regretted. I really felt I should serve my country," Fisher said.
Instead, Fisher began a career in law enforcement in Sharonville in suburban Cincinnati, where he and Regina started their family.
While at Sharonville, he established the department's Honor Guard and visited Washington, D.C., renewing a sense of patriotism he could not ignore, he said.
Fisher first inquired about enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps.
"The recruiter said, 'I don't know. You're 30 years old -- that's pretty old for boot camp,' but I knew I could do it, physically," said Fisher, who was preparing to sign on the dotted line when a supervisor at Sharonville, a chief petty officer in the Coast Guard, suggested he join the "Coasties."
"He knew I loved being on the water, so I talked to the recruiter and they had a program that was a perfect fit for me," Fisher said.
Following his deployment to Kuwait, he was sent to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, for three weeks in 2005 as part of a search-and-rescue mission in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"It still amazes me the devastation a hurricane can do," said Fisher, who recalls one of the most meaningful moments of his military career as when a resident insisted on buying the food and toiletries he had selected at a local store, one of the few that was open in the area.
Fisher finished his military career in 2009 at the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Detachment Unit in Cincinnati; by then he was a lieutenant with Sharonville police and the city's deputy city manager.
In December 2011, he came to Hilliard as the division's deputy chief and in September 2015 was named chief after the retirement of Doug Francis.
Staging for the Veterans Day parade will begin at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 11 at Gate 5 of the Franklin County Fairgrounds, on the south side of Northwest Parkway and east of the Joint Safety Services Building, 5181 Northwest Parkway, said Tom Rowe, commander of American Legion Memorial Post 614 in Hilliard.
Registration is free, but it is required prior to the event. To register or for more information, go to hilliardvetparade.com.
The parade will proceed west on Northwest Parkway, south on Avery Road to Main Street, southwest and south on Main Street, west on Cemetery Road to Scioto Darby Road, west on Scioto Darby and south on Veterans Memorial Drive, where it will conclude with a short ceremony at the Veterans Memorial at Roger A. Reynolds Municipal Park, 3800 Veterans Memorial Drive.