Fred Fillbrook, who served with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne, saw Veterans Day as an “almost forgotten holiday” before he helped establish Mill Creek’s Veterans Day parade several years ago. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Fred Fillbrook, who served with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne, saw Veterans Day as an “almost forgotten holiday” before he helped establish Mill Creek’s Veterans Day parade several years ago. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Mill Creek honors veterans with parade, flag-raising ceremony

Army paratrooper Fred Fillbrook, 80, was instrumental in its return to the city.

The 80-year-old Fillbrook was a force behind the founding of the Mill Creek Veterans Day parade. On Saturday, the parade brought about 60 entrants to Main Street, from the heart of Mill Creek Town Center to City Hall.

Among dozens of scheduled parade participants were Cmdr. Rodman Burley, executive officer of Naval Station Everett; retired Air Force Brig. Gen. William Hathaway, who served in World War II, and several other veterans of the Second World War; Bothell American Legion Post. 127, the 82nd Airborne Division Association’s Evergreen State Chapter, Community Transit’s military veterans, and Everett High School Seagull Company Navy JROTC.

As the longtime editor and publisher of the biweekly Mill Creek View, Fillbrook took up the cause of a Veterans Day parade in an article he wrote for his newspaper in 2007. “The almost forgotten holiday,” the headline said. “It’s time to march for freedom appreciation.”

Fillbrook, who grew up in Detroit, joined the Army at 18. He said he tried to join the Marines at 15, but his tender age meant a rejection.

As part of the 82nd Airborne, he went to jump school at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and later served at Fort Sherman in Panama, a U.S. Army center for jungle warfare training. After active duty, he spent eight years in the Army Reserve.

His commitment to honoring veterans is linked to his family’s military history. An uncle, paratrooper Jack Rogers, and other relatives were killed in the D-Day invasion of France, he said. A cousin also died in World War II. He keeps in touch with men he knew in the military, and is saddened when a widow emails to tell him an Army buddy has died.

Fillbrook noted in his 2007 opinion piece that Arlington and Auburn were then the only cities in the area with parades on Veterans Day. “Let’s show them we care and are thankful for their service,” Fillbrook wrote. He asked those interested in starting a veterans appreciation group to contact him.

“A lot of people met and formed a committee, 12 of us,” Fillbrook said Wednesday at the Mill Creek home he shares with his wife, Nola. He said it was a visit to Arlington, where a Veterans Day parade included Boy Scouts and World War II veterans, that prompted his 2007 article seeking recognition of military service in his city.

Fillbrook and others in the community organized Mill Creek’s first Veterans Day ceremony in 2008. By 2009, with city support, Memorial Day was marked with a Mill Creek parade that brought out several thousand people.

Working together, Fillbrook and Army veteran Chuck Wright brought the idea of a monument to Mill Creek’s City Council. Wright, a retired probation and parole supervisor who lives in Mill Creek, served as a medic in the DMZ in Korea.

In June 2010, the city dedicated its Veterans Monument at Library Park near the Mill Creek Library. The city-sanctioned Veterans Day parade followed several years later.

Before this year’s parade, a Veterans Day flag-raising ceremony Saturday morning honored military service. The event at the Veterans Monument included a color guard, the laying of a wreath, a prayer from Mill Creek Police Chaplain Nick Lewis and patriotic songs by the Mill Creek Chorale. The names of some of Fillbrook’s ancestors are etched on the monument.

Holly Harvey, Mill Creek’s communications and marketing coordinator, said the city provided $3,000 for the Veterans Day parade this year. The event is also supported by businesses and other sponsors, she said.

Sharing pictures he took of fellow paratroopers at Fort Bragg, Fillbrook recalled his fear during ground training. That was more than 60 years ago. He remembered how paratroopers in training scaled a 34-foot tower and, harnessed, rode a cable to the ground. By the time he was jumping from planes — jump aircraft included the C-119 and C-123 at the time — Fillbrook said his anxieties had vanished.

“I loved it,” he said. “I still have a bad knee from it.”

After the military, Fillbrook spent much of his career in store security. His wife works for the Boeing Co. He has run the Mill Creek View, published every other Friday, for 26 years.

“Once a soldier, always a soldier,” Fillbrook said. “Most important, we got the parade going. It’s a good parade. We’re really proud of it — what it represents.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@herald

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