Lt. Henry DuBay

Lt. Henry DuBay, 95, of Gilbert, is ready to salute the thousands of spectators who will flock to downtown Mesa tomorrow for the East Valey Veterans Day Parade, for which he has been named the grand marshal.

A Gilbert World War II veteran will be the grand marshal tomorrow as the 2019 East Valley Veterans Parade steps off.

Leading the parade will be Lt. Henry DuBay, 95, of Gilbert. 

 Born in Massachusetts, raised in northern New York, Henry graduated from high school in 1941, six months before Pearl Harbor, and signed up for a new pilot training program.

DuBay trained at various bases, including Lawson Army Airfield, where he was trained in dropping paratroopers.  

Once the US entered the war, DuBay found himself in the European Theater.

  His first mission was flying supplies from Africa to Sicily in July 1943. During this time, 64 C-47s were shot down in a “friendly fire” incident over Gela, Sicily, costing more than 465 lives. 

The following months brought a variety of missions, eventually leading to the Normandy Invasion that began June 6, 1944, as part of Operation Overlord, now commonly referred to as D-Day.  

DuBay piloted a C-47 transport during the Normandy Invasion, the massive Allied invasion that opened western pressure on the German army and ultimately contributed to ending the war in Europe.

“He is my hero, as every soldier in World War II is. I have such admiration for these men who risked their lives for freedom,” said his daughter, Dr. Holly West of Gilbert.  

“My father tells stories of flying through air so thick with smoke that staying in formation was nearly impossible because you couldn’t see the other planes 15 feet away.  With one navigator for every eight planes, finding your target was your one consuming thought. There was no time to be afraid.”

 “Henry DuBay certainly qualifies as a member of ‘The Greatest Generation’ and a true war hero, delivering troops, supplies and fuel, often behind enemy lines,” said Rick Hardina of Honor Flight Arizona.

During his 2 and a half years of active service, DuBay’s service included delivering supplies to Gen. George Patton’s Third Army and the Red Ball Express, dropping paratroopers, tugging gliders and, during the Battle of the Bulge, landing at night and in bitter cold with only the lights of runway jeeps to assist him. 

 Completing his duty in September 1945 at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, DuBay married, earned this architectural degree and went on to design international airports.  He worked on the ICBM and the Apollo Project for NASA, which 50 years ago this July put Americans on the moon.

“Dubay personifies the thousands of quiet everyday heroes that demonstrated courage, skill and resolve without regard for personal fame,” a parade spokeswoman said, adding:

“His service in face of the threat of almost constant danger resulted in him receiving the Air Medal – the Armed Forces decoration created in 1942 awarded for single acts of heroism or meritorious achievement while in flight – and eight Bronze Stars.

The parade’s dual theme is “Commemorate and Celebrate,” echoing the World War II saga “War and Remembrance.”

The parade will step off after presentations at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at University Drive and Center Street in Mesa, then proceed south on Center to First Street, then west to Robson before concluding.

Last year over 40,000 Gilbert and other East Valley residents watched more than 100 entries from across the region march in the parade.

In commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day – the turning point of World War II – and marking the 100th anniversary of Veterans Day – established in 1919 as Armistice Day – the East Valley Veterans Parade pays tribute to one of the war’s historical moments as well as the nation’s decision to set aside a special day remembering all who served this country in war and peace.

“War and Remembrance” was novelist Herman Wouk’s sequel to “Winds of War” and both involved World War II’s impact on several fictitious families while it also portrayed some of the major moments leading up to and during the war.

On June 6, 1944, Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the go-ahead for the largest amphibious military operation in history.  

Operation Overload, more commonly known as D-Day, began the Allied invasion of northern France.  By daybreak, over 18,000 British and American parachutists were on the ground, with an additional 13,000 aircraft providing air cover and support. 

 At 6:30 a.m., American troops came ashore at Utah and Omaha beaches, while British and Canadian troops landed at Gold, Juno and Sword beaches. 

 By day’s end, 155,000 Allied troops had successfully stormed Normandy’s beaches and were able to push inland, opening a second front against Germany.  

The heroism and bravery displayed by Allied troops changed the course of World War II.

In November 1918, Allied powers signed a ceasefire agreement with Germany at Rethondes, France, at 11 a.m. bringing the war now known as World War I to a close.  

On Nov. 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day with these words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory…”  

Between the world wars, Nov. 11 was observed as Armistice Day, but after World War II, it was recognized as a day of tribute to veterans of both wars. 

 In 1954, after the return of veterans from both World War II and the Korean War, President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill rededicating Nov. 11 as Veterans Day and encouraged Americans to commit themselves to the cause of peace and to honor America’s veterans for their courage, honor, patriotism and sacrifice.

The East Valley Veterans Parade has a storied past.

When the annual Mesa Veterans Parade fell victim to necessary budget cuts in 2006, local residents Gerry Walker and Frank “Gunny” Alger spoke out on behalf of the 40-year-old Mesa tradition.

“There will be a Veterans Day parade if it is only me marching down the street with Frank watching,” Walker declared.

The Marine Corps League Saguaro Chapter in Mesa took the lead and the Mesa Veterans Parade Association was formed.

 In 2013, the all-volunteer organization changed its name to the East Valley Veterans Parade Association to reflect the participation of parade entrants and sponsors from most East Valley communities.