PERRY POINT — A parade of an estimated 150 classic show cars snaked through the Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus on Saturday — an unseasonably warm and sunny one — as part of an early Veterans Day tribute to the approximately 200 veterans who live there.
“God bless you and thank you for your service,” some of the motorists and passengers shouted to the resident veterans dotting the parade route in between honks of their show cars’ horns.
Some waved handheld U.S. flags, as did some of the resident veterans, while driving slowly along the parade route.
The tribute parade was courtesy of Club 56, a group of classic car enthusiasts, and it originally had been planned to take place in April after Karen Shores, a Club 56 member, approached leaders in the VAMC’ voluntary service division with the idea.
Shore and her fellow car enthusiasts wanted to pay tribute to the resident veterans while lifting their spirits amid the gubernatorial stay-at-home order and other regulations related to coronavirus, which broke out in Maryland in early March, about a month before the original parade date.
But repercussions of COVID-19 halted planning for that April parade — one in which planners emphasized precautions, as they did for the one that occurred on Saturday.
“The answer was a safe, socially distant car parade, but our campus was closed at that point (due to the coronavirus), and they decided to hold off until November to do it near Veterans Day,” explained Ming Vincenti, who is the VAMC’s Public Affairs Specialist/Community Outreach Coordinator.
The decision to wait about seven months later than originally planned for the resident veterans tribute likely increased the number of classic show cars featured in Saturday’s parade.
“Karen told me that as the news of the plan spread through Facebook and word of mouth, more and more groups and other people joined in,” Vincenti noted, estimating that 150 sports cars took part in Saturday’s parade.
Among the classic show cars in the parade was Shore’s cherry-red 1967 Ford Mustang.
The benefits of Saturday’s tribute parade and other events on campus are two-fold, according to Susan A. Kern, who is the VAMD’s Voluntary Service Officer/Program Manager.
“First off, it allows the community to come in to see our veterans, to show their appreciation and to thank them for their service,” Kern said.
Before citing the other benefit, Kern noted that resident veterans do not venture outside the campus too often.
“It allows them to have a little piece of the community here with them,” Kern said, after describing campus events, such as Saturday’s classic car parade, as a “link to the community” for resident veterans.
Shores initially had contacted Brandi Sima, a VAMD Voluntary Service Specialist, with the idea for a classic car tribute parade for the resident veterans. Any group wanting to hold an event on campus for resident veterans is urged to call 410-642-1038.