McDaniel selected to serve as grand marshal of Veterans Day parade

By Dick Mason, The Observer November 08, 2013 09:45 am

U.S. Army veteran a dedicated member of American Legion Post 43

Sometimes a step back is actually a leap forward. 

Rich McDaniel, a La Grande military veteran, is living proof.

McDaniel has traveled in the front seat of a 1964 Chevy convertible representing American Legion Post 43 for years in the La Grande Veterans Day Parade. On Monday, however, he will be relegated to the back seat of the convertible during the parade for the ride of a lifetime — one as grand marshal of the annual procession.

McDaniel, 72, was named grand marshal of Monday’s Veterans Day parade last week by the American Legion Post 43. 

“I have never experienced anything like this. It is quite an honor,” said McDaniel, who has either driven or ridden shotgun in the convertible transporting the Veterans Day Parade grand marshal for years.

McDaniel learned that he had been named grand marshal when Lonnie Myers of Post 43 talked to him last week.

“He told me that I would not be sitting in the front seat this year,” McDaniel said.

A look of astonishment appeared on McDaniel’s face. 

“He said, ‘Why me?’ Are you sure you want me? You must have made a mistake,” Myers said. 

McDaniel’s selection salute’s his years of military service, sense of national pride and commitment to Post 43. 

McDaniel was drafted into the Army in 1964 and served in it for two years as an infantryman. He was discharged from the Army in 1966 and then joined the Walla Walla unit of the National Guard. He remained in the National Guard for the next seven years. His stint of military service heightened his already strong sense of national pride.

“He is really patriotic,” Myers said. “He is one of our most patriotic guys.”

McDaniel, a plumber and boiler outfitter, is also one of the most devoted members of the Post 43, Myers said. McDaniel regularly does important plumbing work at the Post 43 building for no charge.

“He is really a great individual, he is very generous,” Myers said.

McDaniel, who grew up in Milton-Freewater, moved to La Grande with his wife, Jeri, in 1971. McDaniel continues to work as a plumber, something he has 62 years of experience doing.

“I began helping my dad (in plumbing and boiler fitter work) when I was 10,” McDaniel said.

Decades of hard work do not appear to have taken a toll on McDaniel, who still has a youthful spring in his step. Nevertheless, McDaniel speaks like Father Time is catching up with him.

“I’d (join the military) again but I’m pretty sure they would take women and children before me,” he said.