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    Parading with a Purpose

    Parading with a Purpose

    Photo By Sgt. Rachel Skowyra | NEW ORLEANS – Retired Lt. Col. Ken Demarest stands with the Air Force medallion, in...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    215th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    The Legion of Mars was established on Veteran’s Day of 2013 with the idea of honoring past and present members of the United States Armed Forces and their families, providing New Orleans with its first military-themed Mardi Gras krewe.

    “Once this bug bites, you’ve got it,” said Adam Strickland, President of the Allah Mardi Gras Krewe, of those involved in the tradition of Mardi Gras.

    This statement proved true for the four Army Reserve officers who had the idea to form the Legion of Mars Krewe while they were deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    These Soldiers – whose identities remain a “Mardi Gras secret” according to Legion of Mars’ captain, Lieutenant Colonel retired Rico Alvendia – returned from duty and recruited a few friends to join their krewe.

    Since then, Legion of Mars has grown, and accepted several hundred members in the last three years.

    Originally founded as a non-parading krewe, Mars is able to roll due to a working relationship with the Krewe of Alla.

    According to Strickland, it was a winning arrangement for both groups and Alla is proud to be able to assist in honoring veterans and their families.

    During Mardi Gras, floats can be seen displaying the official seal of all five military services. They also have a float for Purple Heart recipients.

    “In addition to honoring (all) veterans, we also wanted to honor purple-heart recipients,” said Alvendia. “Recipients and wounded warriors ride in the parade for free.”

    Alvendia said the Mars krewe is more than just a parade society – they host several events every year to bring members together. He said some events are for the “social aspect,” while others are to support a specific cause.

    “At the ball we honor Prisoners of War and World War II and Vietnam veterans – and they all go there for free,” said Alvendia.

    Ken Demarest, a retired Air Force Lt. Col., is involved in the philanthropic work of the krewe. He organizes various projects for members, such as trips to the Chalmette National Cemetery to place flags on the graves of service members who are buried there.

    “Placing the flags on those graves is a reminder that some people have given their lives for this country,” said Demarest.
    The krewe also raises money for veteran organizations in the area like Veterans Reserve Home and Operation Home Front.

    Demarest explained that an added benefit to participating in those events gives the krewe exposure and a chance to promote themselves to potential members. Participation in philanthropic activities is encouraged, but is not mandatory to be a member of the krewe.

    “You want to participate as much as possible without making it a full time job,” said Demarest.

    The Legion of Mars gives its members that sense of camaraderie that many miss once separated from service.

    For Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant (retired) Darryl Warner, that is the driving force behind his dedication to the krewe.

    Warner’s wife recorded the official announcement of the start of Legion of Mars while he was at work because she knew it would interest him.

    “When she showed it to me I told her right then that I had to join, period,” said Warner.

    “When you serve as long as I did… when you walk away from it (the military) you leave a part of yourself, I was drawn to (Legion of Mars) for the brotherhood,” said Warner.

    This year the Parade will roll on Sunday, February 19th on the famous St. Charles Parade Route. According to Alvendia, after that work almost immediately begins in preparation for next year.



    Date Taken: 02.13.2017
    Date Posted: 02.28.2017 14:22
    Story ID: 225185
    Location: NEW ORLEANS, LA, US 

    Web Views: 48
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    Parading with a Purpose