Two purple heart recipients and a military retiree with 36 years of service to the country were honored as grand marshals at the 52nd Annual Commerce City Memorial Day parade and ceremony.
The event featured a plaque presentation, a wreath placing ceremony and a parade, which is now the largest Memorial Day parade in Colorado.
"It was my honor and privilege to serve as this year's emcee," Denver7 reporter Russell Haythorn said. "Both of my grandfathers were WWII veterans. My maternal grandfather, Marion Shoop, was an Air Force pilot who flew bombers over Germany during the war. And my paternal grandfather, Bob Haythorn, was an infantryman who stormed the beaches in Normandy, France with so many other American soldiers. My father, Perry, also served in the Army."
The three grand marshals all have storied backgrounds.
Raymond Brionez was born in Lingle, Wyoming in 1920. In 1942, he joined the Army and served as an infantryman in World War II. After completing basic training in Fort Worth, Texas, he shipped overseas to Le Havre, France. It is estimated that nearly three million American troops either entered or left Europe through Le Havre, which led to it becoming known as the “Gateway to America” during the war.
Brionez traveled to Marseilles, and then completed a tour through Germany where he was wounded in battle. For his bravery, he was awarded several medals, including the Purple Heart with an oak leaf cluster, and a Silver Star Medal. He was honorably discharged in 1945 as a private first class.
Brionez has four children (two deceased), six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. He and his wife Natalia have been married for 40 years and together - they have one daughter. They have been residents of Commerce City for more than 40 years.
Homero Lopez was born in Encinal, Texas, raised in Colorado, and has been a Commerce City resident since 1970. On June 29, 1967, at age 19, he entered the Army during the Vietnam War. He completed basic training in Fort Bliss, Texas and received advanced infantry training in Fort Polk, Louisiana and Fort Ord, California, before shipping out to Vietnam in August 1968.
He served in the 196th Infantry Brigade/101st Airborne Division at the Landing Zone Baldy base in central Vietnam. On May 11, 1969 his squad was on patrol when they were ambushed by enemy forces. Of the six men in his squad, Lopez and just one other soldier survived the attack. Lopez was severely wounded by shrapnel and eventually recovered after wearing a full body cast for six months and spending a year in the hospital.
For his bravery, he was awarded a Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, and Vietnam Service Medal with three Bronze Service Stars, among many others. He was honorably discharged after his service as a sergeant. He and his wife Natalie have been married for 45 years and have four children and ten grandchildren.
Arthur Saiz is a Native American and was born in Valdez, Colorado. He has been a Commerce City resident since 1977. He joined the Army in 1957 and completed basic training at Fort Bliss, Texas.
After basic training, he went on to complete training in artillery and missiles, electronics, and communications.
He served as an engineer in the 96th Army Command and was stationed at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City, Utah. He provided communications support and training during the Korean Conflict, Vietnam War, and Operation Desert Storm, until his retirement in 1993.
He was also stationed at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in Commerce City, where he trained an estimated 2,000 soldiers on infantry equipment and communications. He has been recognized with several engineering and communications awards for his service. He retired in 1993 as a staff sergeant.
He and his late wife, Clara Helen, have five children, six grandchildren, and nine great grandchildren.