by Laura Berthold Monteros
The four entries leading off the 2018 Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 1 formed a group tribute to veterans of United States military service: USMC Mounted Color Guard, USMC West Coast Composite Band, Grand Marshal Gary Sinise, and the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs float. The float, “Sacrifice to Serve,” was co-sponsored by the Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A., Inc. to honor recipients of the Purple Heart, which is awarded to service members who were injured in battle.
The color guard is a fixture at the front of the Rose Parade. Headquartered at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Barstow, Calif., it is the last remaining US Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard. The Marines ride rescued wild mustangs, adopted through the Bureau of Land Management’s Adopt a Horse program. GySgt Carlton Esswein is the Staff NCO in charge of the unit; MCLB Barstow commanding officer is Col. Sekou Karega and the base sergeant major is SgtMaj Sergio MartinezRuiz.
Small but mighty, the USMC West Coast Composite Band plays the Marine’s Hymn and other march favorites. For 2018, the band was comprised of Marine Band San Diego, First Marine Division Band, and 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band led by drum major GySgt Hugh Wurts. CWO3 Christian Flores, Band Officer and MGySgt Brian Paradis, Bandmaster, direct the band. All band members are fully combat trained, and many have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Grand Marshal Gary Sinise has worked with veterans’ organizations for decades and established the Gary Sinise Foundation to better serve them. His work fits well with the parade theme “Making a Difference.” Sinise was thrilled to be chosen as the Rose Parade Grand Marshal, because he grew up watching the parade and realizes the honor and reach of this annual tradition.
The 1919 Dodge Brothers automobile that carried him and his wife, Moira Harris, was the car driven by Jimmy Stewart (himself a WWII veteran) in It’s a Wonderful Life and is used by owners Keith and Marilyn Smith to raise money for veteran groups. The movie was the holiday entertainment of choice for the family of Tournament of Roses Pres. Lance Tibbet, so the car is special to him, as well.
The Rose Examiner has posted several articles about Gary Sinise and the car:
“Sacrifice to Serve,” the 69th Rose Parade entry for Odd Fellows and Rebekahs Rose Float, Inc., won the Director Award for most outstanding artistic design and floral presentation. It was designed by Michelle Lofthouse and built by Phoenix Decorating Company. The float used 158,320 roses and other flowers, as well as a large variety of dry materials. Pampas and buffalo grasses, palm bark and palm bark fiber, and hand-cut corn husk feathers covered the imposing eagle. The purple heart at the front was created with dark blue iris, yellow and white mums, gold clover and flax seed, and fine-cut yellow strawflower. Floragraphs used onion powder, poppy seed, rice, ground split pea, strawflower, statice, walnut shell, and coffee.
All photos copyright 2018 by LB Monteros.