Princeton’s Memorial Day Parade is making its return to Nassau Street following two years of cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Memorial Day is a national holiday, originally called Decoration Day, designed to remember members of America’s armed forces who died while serving the country.
The national holiday takes place this year on Monday, May 30; in Princeton, a commemoration of those lives lost in service of the country will occur with the Memorial Day Parade beginning at 10 a.m. followed by a ceremony at 11:15 a.m. on May 28.
“The whole concept of Memorial Day is the remembrance of those who have sacrificed their lives in service of the country. That is first and foremost what Memorial Day is about,” said Kam Amirzafar, co-chair of Spirit of Princeton, which sponsors Princeton’s Memorial Day and ceremony.
Preparation for the Memorial Day parade and ceremony was a community effort that began in early January.
“Obviously, there are a lot of community things that happen, groups, kids, flags and gathering together is wonderful, but first and foremost our focus is always bringing remembrance back to the fallen soldiers and the reason for the weekend,” Amirzafar said.
All veterans, active duty military and reservists are encouraged to march in the parade. The lineup will begin at 9:15 a.m. on Princeton Avenue. Then the parade begins at 10 a.m. at Nassau Street and Princeton Avenue, and while on Nassau Street for one mile the parade will make its way to Monument Plaza.
A brief ceremony is scheduled on the steps of Monument Hall, where Lt. Col. David Gunther, parade grand marshal, will deliver remarks.
Gunther was assigned to 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne). He served as an Operational Detachment – Alpha (ODA) Commander, a Battalion Assistant Operations Officer, the Group Assistant Operations Officer, and the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Deputy Operations Officer.
Gunther was deployed to Afghanistan on three separate occasions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, according to Princeton University.
“We always try to get someone from the community. He is a decorated war veteran and is involved in the community,” Amirzafar said. “Here he is developing the next leaders after serving the country. It is always interesting from my standpoint is if you get someone who has served like that, what is their view of Memorial Day, what is their personal experience and what would they like to share.”
According to Spirit of Princeton, children from kindergarten to fifth grade can participate in the Patriotic Bike Brigade.
Groups participating in the parade include the Princeton Police Department, Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad, Princeton Fire Department, mayor and Princeton Council, MacGregor Pipe Band, American Legion Post 218, Operation Phoenix, and Princeton Cranberry Chapter Sons of the American Revolution,
Princeton Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Crescent Shrine Mini Car Unit, Colonial Musketeers, Colonel Ogden’s First NJ Regiment, 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment, Trenton JROTC, Boy Scout Troop 43, Princeton Girl Scouts, Princeton Little League Burlington City Marching Band, and Mercer County Chapter of Sunshine Foundation.
“I get to talk to all of these groups and hear the excitement that these groups, these kids, and musicians have in participating in the parade in remembrance,” Amirzafar said.
The Memorial Day Parade and ceremony will not be the only events taking place in Princeton to remember fallen service men and women. The Princeton Battlefield Society will host a Day of Remembrance ceremony at 1 p.m. on May 28 at Battlefield State Park at 500 Mercer St. Attendees will have the chance to pin their own yellow ribbons to a memorial wreath.