AUSTIN (KXAN) — Thousands of people stood along Congress Avenue Saturday morning to thank and honor local men and women who’ve served during Austin’s annual Veterans Day Parade. For many, the one person who wasn’t there became the focus of conversation.
“Pretty disappointed with Mayor Adler,” said Danny Horrigan, whose brother was killed in Iraq.
Mayor Steve Adler announced earlier in the week that he would not participate in this year’s parade, because some groups marching would be carrying Confederate flags.
“I want to be walking in the parade,” Adler said Saturday morning. “I want to be honoring the veterans that way, but I’m uncomfortable walking in a parade that has Confederate symbols or flags.”
Many at the parade weren’t understanding of his stance.
“I think this whole thing is crazy,” said Nancy Koenig, who went to the parade with her husband, who served in the Vietnam War. “I think that the mayor should be here to support all of the veterans that in fact are here today.”
Some said they couldn’t fault the mayor, but added they wouldn’t miss an opportunity to honor fellow troops.
“You’ve got the freedom of choice,” said one Army veteran. “So if you want to protest it, fine. I’m not.”
Mayor Adler spent the day volunteering at the Capital Area Food Bank and writing thank-you notes to local veterans.
“I had a horrible choice,” Adler said. “But I knew that even if I wasn’t in the parade, I could still honor vets lots of different ways.”
Some at the parade argued Adler could volunteer at a food bank any day of the year. Former Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell still participates in the parade, and, as a veteran himself, says it’s important to be a part of the local tradition.
“I respect his decision,” Leffingwell said of Adler’s choice not to attend. “I simply disagree with it. I think it’s more important to take advantage of this one opportunity of the year that we have to recognize and honor our veterans and not get caught up in some political correctness”
Adler has marched in the parade during his two previous years in office. He said his choice was a personal decision, and does not reflect the views of the city.