Veterans Day parade draws crowd under sunny skies

| Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, 12:38 p.m.

Bernard Queneau wonders why so many people pay so little attention to the war in Afghanistan.

“Today, we are in a war but no one would know it except for the 1 percent,” said Queneau, who turned 100 in July. By 1 percent, he was referring to the 1 percent of the U.S. population who serves in the armed forces.

“Having the military draft would make this country a lot more democratic,” said Queneau, a metallurgist, who in 1939, left a job at Columbia University to join the Navy Reserves. He was stationed at the Navy Proving Grounds at Dalhlgren, Va., during World War II.

On Saturday, Queneau was among nearly 700 people who attended a Veterans Day Breakfast at Duquesne University — one of several events throughout the region to honor veterans, including a parade Downtown and a ceremony on the North Shore honoring the 25th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.Queneau was born in 1912 in Belgium to a French father and an American mother. His father, Augustin Queneau, served in the French Army in World War I. His maternal grandfather, Henry Blaisdell, was a member of the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War and was injured at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse in Virginia in 1864.

Queneau's remark about the draft echoed those by retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, a native of the North Side and the event's keynote speaker.

“One percent is defending 99 percent. I don't know what that means in terms of democracy. But that is a very unequal burden,” said Hayden, a former director of the CIA and of the National Security Agency.

Hayden, a graduate of North Catholic High School and Duquesne, spoke to the crowd about military and government service, including his visits to wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital, which he said likely helped him than the wounded.

“I was there once in uniform. This kid who lost his leg in the last 10 days, he saw the four stars and stood up,” Hayden said.

Duquesne University; Friends of Danang, a group that raises money for humanitarian projects in the Vietnamese city of Danang; and the Shepherd's Heart Veterans Home hosted the breakfast.

Those who have sacrificed to serve in the military often face many problems once back home, said the Rev. Mike Wurschmidt, executive director of the Shepherd's Heart Veterans Home in Uptown, which provides transitional housing. About 33 percent of the homeless people in Pittsburgh are veterans, he said. “Many have trauma, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), drug and alcohol problems. It's been very hard for many returning veterans to find work,” Wurschmidt said.

About 15,000 people attended the parade, said Anthony Falardi, adjutant of the Federation of War Veterans' Societies of Allegheny County, which sponsored it. Those watching, who included veterans in uniform, waved small American flags under sunny skies and with temperatures reaching the 60s.

The parade featured 122 units, including 17 high school bands, who marched along a new route from Grant Street to Liberty Avenue, then to Stanwix Street and finishing at the Boulevard of the Allies.

Haya Eason, 49, of Bethel Park, who served in the Marine Corps for nine years, attends the parade every year and said she would like to see schools do more to commemorate patriotic holidays.

“I always offer to speak at my daughter's school on Memorial Day and on Veterans Day,” she said.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at

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