V-J Day Parade tradition marches on in 73rd event

No event in Seymour’s history has lasted as long as the annual V-J Day Parade.

This Sunday, the community will gather for the 73rd annual parade to celebrate and honor hometown veterans, especially those few World War II veterans who are still living.

One of those veterans, Russell E. Byrkett, will serve as the grand marshal in this year’s parade. Byrkett, 92, also served in the Korean War and Vietnam War.

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He enlisted in the U.S. Navy when he was 17 years old in 1942 and served for four years. He then joined the U.S. Air Force in 1947 but transferred into the U.S. Army a year later.

The military became Byrkett’s career, and he retired from the Army in 1972 having obtained the rank of command sergeant major. During his 24 years in the Army, he served in airborne, infantry, armor and special forces divisions.

His many medals include the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Silver Star, Combat Infantryman Badge and many unit citations.

Following his service, he became a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization and served as commander of VFW Post 1925 in Seymour for nine years.

He was in charge of the V-J Day Parade in the mid- and late-1990s and was grand marshal along with two other local World War II veterans in 2016.

The VFW organized the first V-J Day Parade in 1945 after Japan surrendered to the United States following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombings were in retaliation against the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

V-J stands for Victory over Japan.

Seymour’s V-J Day Parade is believed to be the only one in the world that has been celebrated continuously since fighting ended with Japan on Aug. 15, 1945.

The parade is conducted to honor veterans, but there are some people who believe the parade is offensive to Japanese residents and shouldn’t be conducted at all. Others say history cannot be changed, and the sacrifices of American veterans, both living and deceased, should be remembered and honored publicly.

Set for 1 p.m. Sunday, the parade will feature a variety of veterans organizations and community groups, marching units and floats.

Registration will be from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Seymour High School. The parade will proceed up West Second Street, make a left onto Walnut Street and then head west on Fifth Street and back to the high school.

All veterans are asked to meet at the VFW, 311 S. Jackson Park Drive, Seymour, at 11 a.m. to get signed up to ride the organization’s floats.

The VFW will serve food from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the post, and an awards ceremony will be at 2:30 p.m. After the parade awards are handed out, Post Commander Tom Jackson and Byrkett will address the crowd, followed by the playing of taps and a 21-gun salute.

The public is welcome to attend the ceremony and stay for live music from 4 to 8 p.m.

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What: 73rd annual V-J Day Parade, sponsored by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1925 in Seymour

When: 1 p.m. Sunday. Registration is from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the high school parking lot. All veterans are asked to meet at the VFW, 311 S. Jackson Park Drive, at 11 a.m. to get signed up to ride the organization’s floats.

Where: Parade begins in the Seymour High School parking lot and along Community Drive and will make its way east on West Second Street, turning left onto Walnut Street and then head west on Fifth Street back to the high school.

Other details: The VFW will serve food from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the post, and an awards ceremony and a 21-gun salute will be at 2:30 p.m. The public is welcome to attend the ceremony and stay for live music from 4 to 8 p.m.

Grand marshal: Russell E. Byrkett, 92, a local U.S. Navy, Air Force and Army veteran, having served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Information: Call the VFW at 812-522-1207, email [email protected] or visit the VFW Post 1925 Facebook page

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