VISALIA – If you are looking for a good reason to attend a Visalia’s Veterans Day Parade being held a week after Veterans Day is officially observed, look no further than the grand marshal.
Staff Sgt. Kenneth “KC” Mitchell of the U.S. Army and an Exeter Union High School graduate, was just 27 days away from coming home from his last tour in Afghanistan when a roadside bomb hit his vehicle that he was in while on patrol on April 3, 2010. Mitchell suffered severe injuries to his lower extremities, including third degree burns, two broken ankles, a broken arm and shrapnel everywhere except his face due to the explosion.
After the bombing, Mitchell was flown to Germany where he was stabilized in an intensive care unit before being transferred to Walter Reed in Washington, D.C., Mitchell then underwent 12 surgeries to try and save his leg.
Doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center were not able to save Mitchell’s left leg and were forced to amputate Mitchell’s left leg just below the knee. He still faces the possibly of more surgeries in the years to come.
Mitchell was fitted for a prosthetic leg and went through two months of physical therapy before he took his first steps on his own without help on Thanksgiving 2010. Despite arthritis plaguing his body, Mitchell not only started walking he picked up golf. Just three years after losing his leg, Mitchell joined other wounded soldiers at Operation Game On, a San Diego-based program that teaches balance and coordination through golf. Mitchell did so well in that program that he was among a dozen wounded soldiers selected that year to represent the United States in The Simpsons Cup, a sort of Ryder’s Cup for wounded veterans between the United States and Great Britain, which took place at the Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s golf course, in England where the legendary Ryder’s Cup has been held.
Just two years ago, Mitchell was able to kick off and compete in the Veterans’ Benefit Run-Walk in Exeter. Today Mitchell’s goal is to inspire other wounded soldiers to find something they are passionate about and concentrate on that and not their injury. And he will do it again this month.
Mitchell, now 32 years old, will serve as the grand marshal of the Visalia Veterans’ Day Parade on Nov. 18. The parade begins at 10 a.m. on Main Street and marches west from Garden Street to Willis Street.
Following the parade will be a concert by Marine Band San Diego. Founded in 1921, Marine Band San Diego has thrilled countless thousands by averaging nearly four hundred commitment a year. The primary mission of Marine Band San Diego is to support the Recruit Training Regiment and other depot organizations. Additionally, the band performs a wide variety of music at military ceremonies and civilian events throughout San Diego County and the southwestern United States. The concert will begin at 2 p.m. in the Eucalyptus Courtyard of the Visalia Convention Center, 303 E. Acequia Ave. in Visalia.
Porterville Veterans Day Parade
Porterville will continue its nearly century-old tradition of holding a Veterans Day Parade this Saturday, Nov. 11. This year marks the 99th annual Veterans Day Parade in Porterville. A pre-parade will begin at 9:30 a.m. with the historic parade scheduled to roll down Main Street at 10 a.m. This year’s Grand Marshal will be Rick Elkins, long-time Tulare County journalist and recently retired publisher from the Porterville Recorder. The parade route will begin at the corner of Morton Avenue and Main Street, and end at Main Street and Walnut Avenue. At 11 a.m. there will be a moment of silence.
The theme of this year’s parade is “Over There,” a pinnacle of patriotism composed by George M. Cohan in 1917 to commemorate the country’s entrance into World War I. Music was central to drumming up support for the war and getting young men to enlist in the military. Today, it remains an essential part of the veterans parade and its accompanying event, the Band-a-Rama. The Band-a-Rama was started more than 35 years ago by former Porterville Panther Band director Buck Shaffer, and features local marching bands in one mass performance. This year’s event will take place at Rankin Stadium at Granite Hills High School, 1701 E. Putnam Avenue. Gates for the event will open following the conclusion of the parade, and admission is free. Donations will be accepted after the show to help cover the costs for the event. Porterville Veterans Day activities are sponsored by the Veterans Homecoming Committee.
Prior to the parade, runners and walkers of all ages from around the Valley will race in a 10K, 5K and Kids Run. Awards are given to the top three finishers in every division and each pre-registered participant is guaranteed a long sleeved commemorative t-shirt. Race begins at 7:30 a.m. in the front of City Hall, 291 N. Main St. Entry fee is $20 by Nov. 10 and $25 the day of registration. The fee is just $10 for active military or veterans.