The eighth annual Howard County Veterans Day Parade and Celebration will take place in Columbia on Sunday to honor all those who have served in the nation’s armed forces, including the more than 20,000 veterans living in Howard County.
“It’s going to be a nice event to celebrate our veterans and military families,” said Robert Gillette, an eight-year Navy veteran and president of the Howard County Veterans Foundation.
The parade is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. in Merriweather District, traveling down Merriweather Drive to Little Patuxent Parkway, and conclude with a celebration at the Columbia Lakefront at 11 a.m.
The parade will feature Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, high school marching bands, cheerleaders, JROTC units and local fire and police departments, among other groups, according to Gillette. This year’s parade grand marshal is Topaz Navarro, a 27-year U.S. Army veteran and vice president of the Howard County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“Since he retired from the military, [he] has been very, very active in helping veterans with PTSD and other mental health issues,” Gillette said. “He’s a fantastic guy who has just continued that service out of uniform.”
The county’s Veterans Day parade moved to Columbia in 2018 after severe flooding prevented Ellicott City’s main street from hosting. Organizers decided to keep festivities centered in Columbia since the city was selected as the location for the official Howard County veterans monument, which has received more than $400,000 in county and state funding.
Gillette and several others founded the Howard County Veterans Foundation in 2016 to provide education, awareness and advocacy on behalf of veterans. In addition to kickstarting the monument project, the foundation also helped create the county’s Office of Veterans and Military Families.
Gillette said the foundation’s goal is to raise visibility for the county’s veterans.
“We’re on your PTA, we’re part of your youth sports league, some of us have become teachers and police and firefighters and other first responders and business owners,” he said. “Everywhere you turn, veterans and military families are part of your community.”
This weekend’s parade and celebration are co-hosted by the foundation, along with the county executive’s office, Office of Veterans and Military Families, Columbia Association, American Legion Posts 156 and 300, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7472 and Marine Corps League Detachment 1084.
To learn more about this year’s events, visit: https://www.howardcountyveterans.org/parade/.