Houston Veterans Day ceremony held after parade canceled

HOUSTON - The City of Houston honored those who served our country with an indoor ceremony on Veterans Day, after the annual parade was canceled due to the forecast.

The ceremony at 10 a.m. was only open to invited guests due to limited seating, but it was available for the public to livestream.

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The celebration included distinguished guests, a moment of silence in honor of the signing of the WWI Armistice, and Keynote Speaker Dr. Quindola Crowley, Lt. Colonel (Ret.) U.S. Army.

<div>File photo. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)</div>
File photo. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

The Mayor’s Office announced two special honorees at this year’s ceremony:

Colonel Joe McPhail, United States Marine Corps Retired, World War II and Korea – Corsair Fighter: Colonel McPhail, 102, has lived in Houston for more than six and a half decades. He is the oldest surviving Fighter Pilot in the United States and served in over 240 combat missions and two Air to Air victories. His awards include a Distinguished Flying Crosses – 2nd Award and Air Medal – 11th Award.

Staff Sergeant Fred Douglas Witchet – a World War II, Korea, and Vietnam War veteran who served with honor in the United States Army – will be posthumously remembered. Mrs. Noami Witchet, his widow, and other relatives attended the celebration. He was awarded a Purple Heart Medal and Bronze Star Award Medal for Valor. On November 17, 1965, he was declared a casualty of the Vietnam War during the Battle of la Drang – a battle that was brought to widespread attention in the 2002 Mel Gibson movie "We Were Soldiers." After being refused burial in what is now known as Houston National Cemetery, he was laid to rest in Houston’s Paradise North Cemetery.

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The ceremony traditionally precedes the annual parade. However, city officials announced earlier this week that the parade was canceled due to a forecast that showed the potential for heavy rain and possible lightning.