Springfield Memorial Day parade organizer expects more than 3,000 participants

May 22—A Springfield tradition to celebrate and honor the memory of those who died in service to the country returns with the annual Memorial Day Parade on Monday.

The parade, the city's largest of the year, will begin at 9 a.m. using the same route it has used the past few years. It will start at Veterans Park, go up Fountain Avenue, turn on McCreight Avenue and then onto Plum to loop back around to Veterans Park.

Parade commander Jon Stewart said more than 110 groups and 3,000 people will participate in the parade this year, which has the theme "Remembering Their Sacrifice."

Stewart said it feels great to continue honoring veterans and having this event; he took over about seven years ago from his dad, who passed away in 2021.

"It feels great. But this year's been a little different just because my family, at the end of February, lost our house in the tornadoes. Everything's kind of been delayed a little bit ... (but we are) glad we still got as many people to participate this year," he said.

The grand marshal this year is Randy Ark, who is a retired teacher, veteran and activist for fellow veterans.

"I'm very honored. I never actually saw myself in that position to be chosen for that. It was very nice, surprising. I'm honored to do it," Ark said.

Ark was drafted in the Army in the fall of 1967. He was a combat medic, started bootcamp in April 1968 "the same day the Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot," and left the Army in January 1971 when he had a three-month early out for college.

He then went to Wright State University for a bachelor's in psychology and a master's in education. Ark, who taught at South Vienna Middle School, had a total teaching career of 33 years.

A few years ago, Ark was inducted into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame, in part because of a medal from his Vietnam service. He has has a Purple Heart, which is awarded to those wounded or killed while serving, and was involved in Honor Flight.

"I got a real thing about remembering veterans. I worked very hard getting renovations at the Clark County Veterans Park. I just finished renovating the memorial at Greenon High School," he said. "I think it's so, so important to remember those guys that never came back, were killed, that's why this thing is so important to me. I'm doing everything to make sure that people remember, especially those that have given their lives so they can live the way they live now. It means a lot to me."

Stewart said this year's parade will be much like last year's, and the parade will not include Shriners units.

Thousands of people are expected to watch the parade.

For the latest updates and more information about the event, visit the Springfield Ohio Memorial Day Parade page on Facebook.