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McGrath, Massie Highlight NKY Memorial Day Parades

Memorial Day brings a lot of parades across Northern Kentucky.

In Park Hills, a Notre Dame Academy graduate who faced off unsuccessfully as a Democrat against Republican Congressman Andy Barr in the Sixth Congressional District, which includes Lexington and its surrounding suburban and rural regions, will serve as Grand Marshal. 

Amy McGrath, a native of Edgewood and 1993 graduate of Notre Dame, left home to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Then, she served as a weapons system operator on the F/A-18 aircraft.

She was inspired to pursue a military career after seeing a documentary about fighter jets on the History Channel.

While in high school, McGrath was surrounded by classmates whose bedroom walls were adorned with posters of pop stars of the day like New Kids on the Block. McGrath's walls featured fighter jets.

At the time, women were forbidden from holding certain positions, including fighter pilot.

But McGrath proceeded and joined the Marines.

"I felt there was nothing I couldn't handle after the sisters at Notre Dame," McGrath told The River City News. "I loved my time at Notre Dame. It was an amazing four years, and I felt so prepared to go to the Naval Academy."

Some combat positions later opened to women and McGrath flew in the back seat of the F18, operating bombs and weapons. During the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, she was on base at Miramar in San Diego.

In the aftermath, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan with Operation Enduring Freedom where McGrath became the first woman to fly combat missions for the Marines.

"With the Marines, at the end of the day, they don't care if you are a man or a woman, or if you are black or white," she said. "At the end of the day they care if you can do the job. All the other stuff is secondary."

McGrath flew eighty-nine combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

McGrath knows that she is a role model, and she says she has many women come to her and ask her how to break through, and to become successful in the military.

"I always tell them to work hard, and accept the fact that you will never blend in," she said. "But I also tell them if you have a dream, stick with it, and recognize that it won't happen overnight. You have to have a plan, and then work hard to get there. And above all, never let anyone tell you you can't do it."

She related how she asked her young son what he thought he wanted to be when he grew up and he said, a fireman. Then she asked what his little brother would be, and he said his brother would be a policeman. She asked him if he ever thought about being a fighter pilot, and he said no, that is what his 2-year-old sister was going to be.

"So stereotypes are being broken," McGrath said. "While I was growing up, I pictured doctors as women because my mother was a doctor, and my son now thinks of fighter pilots as women. You can be anything you work hard to do."

McGrath also said she was happy to come back to Park Hills for the Memorial Day parade.

"To me, Memorial Day is a time to think about those people who did not come back," she said. "This is a day to honor those who died doing their job to keep our country safe. It is important to me, because I had friends who didn't come back."

The parade in Park Hills has been going on since 1979, and organizers welcome civic groups of all types to participate. 

The parade in Park Hills starts at 11:30 a.m. at  Notre Dame High School on Monday. The parade travels down the driveway and turns onto Dixie Highway going north.  It then will turn left onto Arlington, left again on Old State Road, and right on Terrace Drive. The parade then will turn right on Amsterdam road, and end up on Park Drive and Trolley park.

After the parade, there will be a flag-raising ceremony, sponsored by the Park Hills Civic Association, to remember the fallen. McGrath will speak about her experiences. Food trucks will be available before and after the ceremony.

In Ludlow, Republican Northern Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie will be the keynote speaker and longtime funeral home operator Ronald B. Jones will serve as Grand Marshal.

The parade will honor fallen service members from Ludlow, Bromley, and West Covington.

Various individuals, businesses and organizations will gather at the corner of Carneal and Elm Sts. at 9 a.m., with the parade commencing at 10 a.m. The parade will follow a route along Elm St., left on Adela St., right on Oak St.,  to Bromley’s Veteran’s  Memorial to place a wreath. The parade proceeds back onto Elm and ends at the Veteran’s Memorial in Ludlow’s Lempker Park, where a Memorial Ceremony will take place. Included in the ceremony is the Pledge of Allegiance, invocation by  placement of wreaths, recognition of Ronald B. Jones Grand Marshal, Congressman Massie’s speech, benediction, and the playing of "Taps".

Lunch will follow the ceremony at the Ludlow Vets, where the Ludlow Fire Department will grill hamburgers and hot dogs.

In Covington, Memorial Day begins at 7 a.m. with a series of Honor Guard salutes at military memorial sites and ends with a parade that will leave Holmes High School at 2 p.m., ending at Linden Grove Cemetery.

"The 98th annual parade is the culmination of a whole morning of honor for the sacrifice of our soldiers and their families," said Denny Madden, co-chair and treasurer of the United Veterans Memorial Day Committee.

The salutes at the sites will include a prayer, a 21-gun salute, the playing of "Taps," and the placing of a wreath by the combined Honor Guard from the Latonia American Legion Post 203 and the Marshall Schildmeyer VFW Post 6095, Madden said. That will be in addition to any local community program.

The approximate schedule is:

  • 7 a.m. - VFW Post 6095 at 347 E. 47th St.
  • 7:45 a.m. - American Legion Post 203 on Winston Highway.
  • 7:55 a.m. - Korean War Memorial at Ritte's Corner.
  • 8:15 a.m. - World War II Memorial at Holmes High School.
  • 8:30 a.m. - Vietnam Memorial at Meinken Field.
  • 8:45 a.m. - Mother of God Cemetery at 3125 Madison Ave.
  • 9:05 a.m. - Floral Hills Memorial Gardens at 5336 Old Taylor Mill Road.
  • 10 a.m. - Highland Cemetery at 2167 Dixie Highway. 

The Memorial Day Parade is the 98th annual celebration of patriotism.

Floats, vehicles, and marchers will begin lining up at Holmes at 1 p.m., he said, and the parade will leave the campus at 2 p.m. It will proceed north on Madison Avenue, turn west onto 19th Street, north on Holman Avenue, and west on 13th Street to the new entrance of Linden Grove Cemetery.

The parade will include City officials, police and fire units, various military contingents and vehicles, a choir and band, ball teams, and fraternal organizations.

It will end with a ceremony at Linden Grove, with a keynote speaker being Covington's representative in the state House, Buddy Wheatley (D).

"The parade is a lot of fun, though with a serious purpose," said Covington Mayor Joe Meyer, who will be participating.

In Newport, the Memorial Day Parade begins at 9 a.m. at East Sixth Street, ending at the city building at 998 Monmouth Street.

A ceremony honoring veterans and the fallen will follow at the city building with a continental breakfast.

Mayor Jerry Peluso will serve as master of ceremonies.

A prayer, music by the Newport High School band, and a hymn will be part of the ceremony.

World War II veteran Donald Johnson will serve as grand marshal and City Commissioner Beth Fennell will be the keynote speaker.

Other parade information:

Fort Mitchell: Memorial Day service at Highland Cemetery chapel, 10 a.m. Retired Marine Michael McGriff is the speaker.

Florence: Parade begins at 10 a.m. at Boone County High School and ends at the Boone County Veterans Memorial at the Government Center. Award will be presented to "most patriotic float". A program follows at 11 a.m. with music performed by the Florence Community Band & Chorus, and a 21-gun salute by the Florence Police Honor Guard.

Bellevue-Dayton: The region's largest Memorial Day parade starts at 10:30 a.m. in Dayton and continues along Kentucky Route 8 (Sixth Avenue in Dayton and Fairfield Avenue in Bellevue) and ends at the Bellevue Veterans Club. Prior to the parade, a prayer service will be held at the Callahan Community Center in Bellevue at 9:30 a.m. with Father Martin Pitstick presiding.

Alexandria: The Memorial Day Parade will be on Sunday, May 26, at 2 p.m. It will start at Campbell County Middle School and move to the VFW.

Erlanger-Elsmere: The annual Ralph Fulton VFW Post 6423 Memorial Day Parade is Monday, May 27 9 a.m. The parade begins at the VFW Post (4435 Dixie Highway, Elsmere) and runs north on Dixie Highway to Forest Lawn Memorial Park (3227 Dixie Highway, Erlanger). A brief memorial service will be held at the Vietnam Memorial (Commonwealth Avenue and Dixie Highway) and the parade will end with a memorial service at Forest Lawn.

Any cities missing? Contact us at [email protected]

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer and Michael Monks