10 MINUTES OUT! A Veterans Day Parade Recollection

Life all boils down to a few critical moments in time. For the United War Veterans Council, one such moment happened at the 2019 Centennial NYC Veterans Day Parade.

Each year on November 11th the UWVC Ops Team (consisting of 5 people) takes charge of hundreds of volunteers who assist us with running the Parade’s opening ceremony and to facilitate moving 25,000 marchers north up 5th Avenue in honor of our country’s veterans. Operational planning is a yearlong process.

Part of that process is to extend an invitation to the standing President of the United States along with the senior officer of the Parade’s featured service branch. We were honored that in 2019, both POTUS and the Commandant of the Marine Corps had accepted.

However, with only a few days confirmation that the President was to attend it became evident that we would need to be prepared to operate, execute and ultimately deliver under extraordinary circumstances. “Siege plans” were created and implemented including hiring additional contractors to build necessary infrastructure and expanding our private security contingent.

Teams worked around the clock in a joint effort that was nearly derailed by some unforeseen chaos that occurred on the morning of the parade. The Secret Service had ordered a complete lockdown of Madison Square Park where the opening ceremony was to take place. We were then made aware that the Mayor’s contingent of 150 people was going to be late arriving. The White House staff came to us stating that we needed to fill the 150 seats prior to POTUS’s arrival which was 10 MINUTES OUT!

Over 150 reporters from around the world were on stand by to air the ceremony. Although we had planned which marching units would be scrambled in this type of situation we were unable to share with them the information due to operational security. UWVC Executive Director Mark Otto quickly coordinated with fellow Marine Veteran and UWVC Chairman Doug McGowen to act as gatekeeper and liaison with the Secret Service.

Mark then ran out of the Park over to the Parade assembly area  and began yelling at military officers he encountered: “I’m with the United War Veterans Council and I AM IN CHARGE OF THE PARADE! THE WHITE HOUSE needs your units to assemble at the corner of 25th and Madison IMMEDIATELY in preparation for the OPENING CEREMONY!”

That request was followed by an immediate “YES SIR!”

Formations began sprinting in their dress blues to the rally point. Because they were entire units we ended up assembling more than 250 service members. The extra 100 service members formed up alongside the seated guests. The packed audience appeared as though it was all planned well in advance. The opening ceremony went off flawlessly, all things considered…

Afterwards, Mark turned and said to the UWVC team: “Now comes the easy part. We just need to run the parade and move 25,000 marchers!”