It was only his second year participating in the Grand Parade that took place Saturday morning, but Vanderhaden said it’s a very special event to him.
“The incredible support from the community, the decorations, the patriotism and I believe that no other city in the country celebrates an armed service like Grand Haven celebrates the Coast Guard,” he said. “This is so special on the grandest scale, so Grand Haven is a fitting name for the celebration of the Coast Guard.”
This year’s parade had 112 entries and honored nearly 40 Coast Guard current and retired service members at the beginning of the parade.
Vanderhaden, who is stationed in Washington D.C., had his morning made even more special with a surprise appearance from his daughter, Victoria, who serves in the Coast Guard in Mobile, Ala.
“I think it’s so special that the Coast Guard Festival brought me here to surprise my dad,” Victoria said. “They really get to understand the traditions that we have and that the Coast Guard’s a giant family, so to see me and my family here…I think it’s awesome that everybody gets to see that we’re one big family.”
Victoria, who is a Boatswains Mate 2nd Class, said she knew from a young age she wanted to be in the Coast Guard after growing up watching her dad serve.
“I drive boats and I knew from 11 years old that I was going to be on the water driving boats and be in the Coast Guard like my dad,” Victoria said. “I see how much fun he has and I love the family feel and I knew I was going to do it for a long time.”
Not only was it an opportunity for Coast Guard service members to have their families ride along, but a chance to meet service members outside of being pulled over on the water, according to Victoria.
“It really gives them a chance to meet the people that are on the boats and pulling them over and (see) that we’re doing it to benefit them and for their safety and I think they get to see us in a different light than an official capacity,” she said. “It’s more of a fun, get to know everybody and we get to know the community in turn and I think that’s great.”
The parade honored other service members as well, such as retired Navy Chief Craig Gleason, who represented the Commanders Club of Michigan in the parade. Gleason served in the Navy for 22 years before being in the reserves and then retiring in 2003.
He then got an honorary appointment as Commander from Jennifer Granholm, the governor at the time, and is now a member of the Commanders Club. The club has around 50 members and hold meetings and goes to events, such as the Coast Guard Festival.
“It’s to serve the state of Michigan and represent it in this type of an effort,” Gleason said.
Gleason said the Coast Guard parade is a nice atmosphere where they get to meet a lot of different people and he really enjoys the parade itself.
“It’s the general idea of the happiness around here, the people that come from everywhere,” Gleason said. “I mean rain or shine and I’ve been in a couple of them when it did rain and that didn’t shoo the people away. You’d see people with trash bags over their heads but they were there. And it’s a happy, happy group.”