A firetruck, an armored truck and other police vehicles, motorcycles, cars and pickups rolled into Dwight Weir’s cozy neighborhood Wednesday morning to give the 92-year-old U.S. Navy and World War II veteran an early birthday present: a socially distant, but no less festive, parade.
Weir, friends and neighbors gathered under an outdoor tent to watch the procession and waved as two dozen parade vehicles rode past, honking and blaring sirens.
“Oh it’s wonderful,” Weir told the Sun-News following the parade. “I didn’t know this many people knew my birthday.”
Weir’s 93rd birthday is Sept. 8, he said. But Dolores Archuleta, chair of the veterans memorial wall committee at Veterans Memorial Park, said the birthday was celebrated early since Weir’s health has declined and he thinks he may not be alive to see it.
But Weir was in good spirits Wednesday. He took photos with friends and shared hugs with a few.
The vehicles were adorned with flags, signs and balloons. Some shouted happy birthdays at Weir from their car windows. Neighbors emerged from their homes to see the show.
Archuleta said the turnout was excellent.
“Word got out to just about everybody,” said United Military Women of the Southwest President Karen Woods, who helped organize the event. She said UMWSW contacted Weir’s friends and leaders from local veterans organizations about the parade.
To Susan Walker, an organizer with UMWSW who said she’s a U.S. Air Force and Army veteran, the parade was just another example of veterans sticking together and supporting each other.
Ed Kriner, a parade participant, said he’s known Weir for 40 years. He said Weir used to come support fundraisers for the local chapter of the American Legion Riders, a motorcycle enthusiasts organization for veterans that’s known for its service work.
“He’s a few years older than me and I just think, congratulations for still going on,” Kriner said.
Weir served as a gun captain in the Navy during World War II in the Pacific aboard the USS Columbia, a ship part of the fleet dubbed MacArthur’s Navy. Weir fought on the Columbia at Surigao Strait in October 1944 as part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, regarded as the largest naval battle in world history. He’s lived in Las Cruces for 35 years.
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