Carbon County Veterans Day parade to be held Sunday
ABOVE: Clarence Smoyer motions as he talks about the last words spoken to him by Gustav Schaefer, the Panther tank gunner Smoyer went head-to-head with in the streets of Cologne, Germany. “In the next life, we will be comrades instead of enemies,” Schaefer said through an interpreter. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
The Carbon County Veterans Council announced the annual Veterans Day parade will be held on Sunday, with a rain date of Nov. 17.
This year’s parade is hosted by the Lehighton United Veterans Organization and will be held in Lehighton.
Henry Desrosiers, director of Carbon County Veterans Affairs, asks everyone to come out and line the parade route.
“Your presence on the parade route will be greatly appreciated to honor our veterans who have already served and the men and women who are currently serving. Let us come together and celebrate our brave men and women who put their lives on the line to ensure our safety and welfare.”
The grand marshal this year is Clarence Smoyer, originally from Lehighton, and one of World War II’s most legendary tank gunners.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army in February 1943, and after training was assigned to the 3rd Armored Division, one of America’s two heavy armored divisions, “The Spearhead Division.”
He came ashore three weeks after D-Day and served as a loader and later, gunner, on a Sherman tank.
On Sept. 2, 1944, he knocked-out a Panzer IV tank that had infiltrated American lines at Mons, Belgium, the first of five tanks that he would be responsible for disabling or destroying. Having been assigned to one of 20 top-secret Pershing tanks rushed to the European Theatre, Smoyer earned a notable place in history during the battle for Cologne, Germany, where he fought a dramatic duel with a German Panther tank at the city’s cathedral.
An Army cameraman filmed this engagement and the resulting footage appeared in newsreels worldwide. Smoyer would go on to fight with the Spearhead Division until the end of the war in Europe.
In civilian life, he married his sweetheart, Melba, had three children, and worked his way into a supervisor’s position in an industrial plant. Now retired to Allentown, he remains one of the last living heroes of the legendary Spearhead Division.
The parade marshals are Michael and Sarah “Sally” Wargo of Lehighton. They are the parents of Michael C. and Kerry Ann Wargo.
Michael and Sarah are Gold Star Parents whose son, Michael, took his own life on May 20, 2013, eight years after serving in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army. They “pay it forward” to area veterans in memory of their son by volunteering at the Valor Clinic Foundation, visiting veterans in nursing homes, and chairing the Michael C. Wargo Golf Tournament.
Over two years ago, with the help of state Rep. Doyle Heffley, Mission 22, the Gilbert America Legion, as well as the Lehighton American Legion and United Veterans Organization, they displayed a 10-foot statue of their son, Michael, on the steps of the State Capital to bring awareness to the state Legislatures of veteran suicide.
The statue is now permanently in the Lehighton Veterans Memorial Park.
Sarah is the treasurer of the Lehigh Valley Gold Star Mothers Chapter, whose membership is usually reserved for mothers of military killed in action. However, Sarah notes, the number of service-related military suicides since Desert Storm is now larger than the number of killed in action.
Michael and Sarah will continue their mission, helping veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and to prevent suicide, until the numbers 22 a day becomes zero.
Parade participants are required to register, prior to arriving at their designated division, on Eighth and Coal streets, Lehighton.
Please observe the posted signs. Lineups start forming at noon and all participants are asked to be in place by 1:45 p.m. The parade will start promptly at 2 p.m.
The parade will be forming up between Eighth and Sixth streets, proceed down Coal Street, turn right on to Third Street, down to Mahoning Street, out to Eighth Street, then turn left down to the Grove to disband.
Free American Celebration Flags will be distributed throughout the route while supplies last.
Division 1: Lehighton Police Department; Lehighton United Veterans Organization Color Guard; Grand Marshal Clarence Smoyer with Kenneth Wong, civilian aide to the secretary of the Army; Parade Marshals Mike and Sally Wargo; Lehighton Area High School “Indian Pride” Marching Band; Sons of the American Legion Post 314; American Legion Post 314 Auxiliary, Miss Poppy and 4 County Council; Lehighton Borough; Korean Last Man’s Club, American Legion Post 314; Leiby’s Carriage Service For Yuengling Brewery; Carbon County Fair Queen Katie Aaron and Court; Lehighton Area Girl Scout Unit 734; Perseverance Jazz Band; Stan Zabo’s Antique Car Collection; Colossal Radio, Yenser’s Tree Farm; Lehighton Ambulance Association; Mahoning Valley Volunteer Fire Company No. 1; Lehighton Fire Department.
Division 2: American Legion Post 123 Color Guard; American Legion Post 123, George “Bucky” Brimmer; Panther Valley JROTC; Panther Valley High School Marching Band; Nesquehoning United Veterans Organization; Nesquehoning UVO Poppy Queen & King; Vietnam Veterans Organization of Carbon County Color Guard; VFW Department of PA, District 20, Commander & Quarter Master; Panther Valley Cub Scouts Pack 765; Blue Eagles Drum & Bugle Corps; American Legion Post 170, Paul Macenka; American Fire Company No. 1, Lansford; New Columbus Fire Company; Coaldale Volunteer Fire Company No. 1; Diligence Fire Company No. 1, Summit Hill.
Division 3: Palmerton UVO, Color Front; Palmerton Area High School Blue Bomber Marching Band; Palmerton UVO, USMC van driven by Ed Baranski; Palmerton UVO, WWII Jeep, driven by Joe Plechavy; American Legion Post 16, M36A2 Military Cargo Truck driven by Mike Marino; Palmerton UVO, Jack Mack Truck driven by Steve Yuhas; Larry Hahn, 1943 Willys Jeep; Palmerton UVO, Miss Poppy McKenna Freeby and Legion Mascot Matt Jahelka; Schuylkill-Carbon Marine Corps League Color Guard; Weatherly Area High School Band; Girl Scout Service Group 33412; Palmerton Boy Scout Troop 20; Boy Scout Troop 209 Towamensing Township; VFW Post 294 Color Guard, Penn Kidder; Palmerton Fire Department; Aquashicola Volunteer Fire Co.; Bowmanstown Volunteer Fire Co.
Division 4: American Legion Post 304 Color Guard; Carbon County Veterans Affairs, Director Henry Desrosiers; Jim Thorpe Olympian Marching Band; Jukebox Cruisers Car Club; USSV1 Pocono Base U.S. Submarine Veterans; Congressman Dan Meuser and state Rep. Doyle Heffley; Carbon County Republican Committee; Carbon County Commissioners; Carbon County Controller; Carbon County District Attorney; Carbon County Sheriff’s Office; Girl Scout Troops Service Unit 309; Boy Scout Troop 138; Jim Thorpe Fire Department; Lake Harmony Volunteer Fire Company.
Division 5: American Legion Post 316 Color Guard; Gregory A. Badger, Calliope; Russel’s Posse Classic Cars; EGW Wrestling, Tamaqua Salvation Army, Carbon County Shriners; Rajah Shrine Anglers Club; Rajah Shrine Oriental Band; KME/REV Corporation; Forks of the Delaware Tin Lizzies.