San Diego's annual Veteran's Day Parade just got a new lease on life from those whom America's soldiers have helped so much in so many ways: the defense industry.
Organized by the United Veterans Council of San Diego, a nonprofit alliance of various veterans groups, the parade had for several years suffered from public apathy—few donations and sparse attendance.
“We would send tons of letters to just about everybody in the business community but never got much of a response,” says Joe Brunner, vice president of United Veterans and co-chairman of the parade. “We had different people out knocking on doors, and from time to time we would have a person organize fund-raising, but he's had health problems lately.”
As reported in the San Diego Union-Tribune, this year's parade on Nov. 11 was poised to be a repeat of previous years' poorly attended affairs until another nonprofit, the San Diego Military Advisory Council (SDMAC), intervened. The council, which, according to its website, “supports, promotes and represents the common business” of San Diego's enormous military community, sent out the word to its 80-plus corporate members that the event needed help.
Several members, including Lockheed Martin, responded with donations. As a result, parade organizers were able to hit its $18,000 budget and pull in a crowd of some 15,000 people—the largest Veteran's Day Parade the city has seen in years.
Larry Blumberg, executive director of SDMAC, says his group plans to continue supporting the annual event. “We're not going to get involved in running the show or fund-raising, but we'll help them get the word out about the event and help them get the word out about sponsorship opportunities,” he says. “Our focus is more on active-duty folks, but we're not going to turn our backs on support of the Veteran's Day parade. Many of our members are veterans themselves. We're going to do everything we can to help them.”
SDMAC's sense of indebtedness to veterans goes beyond patriotism to actual indebtedness: The organization is a fairly representative cross-section of America's military-industrial complex. Its vice president is also a vice president for Lockheed Martin. Eight members of its 17-member board of directors are executives of top defense firms, including Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Raytheon, Galaxie Defense Marketing, Epsilon Systems, Cubic Corp. and SAIC. The rest of SDMAC's leadership are almost entirely either retired or active-duty military officers.
Brunner is glad for the help, but he'd be even gladder if more support came from San Diego's non-military sector.
“The majority of funding comes from veterans and veterans associations,” he says. “In my view, this is something the community should do to honor its vets. We used to have enough money to put up parade bleachers for the disabled and elderly, but we haven't been able to afford that for a while. From year to year, we've gotten $1,000 or so from individual City Council members. But the way the city works is they say they'll give us a thousand but won't give any money until you present them with paid receipts.”