Neighbors throw WWII veteran personal parade before Memorial Day

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) –  The wet weather put a damper on some Memorial Day ceremonies but one Rochester woman planned ahead.

Shelly Swendsen knew Monday’s forecast would be less than desirable. She also knew her father, 104-year-old World War II veteran Leon Swendsen, wasn’t doing so well.

Leon Swendsen, 104, is a WWII veteran and proud dad

“He makes sure that his family and friends know the importance of living in the United States,” she said.

Knowing how much her father loves honoring America’s heroes, she knew she had to do something special for him a day early.

Shelly decide to text her friend Susie Im. “I just wanted to see if they could maybe do some type of little bike parade by my dad because we’d be sitting outside on the driveway,” Shelly recalled.

“To be honest I didn’t think much of it. It’s something we do. If someone asks for help we help,” said Susie.

Susie Im organized the surprise parade for Leon Swendsen

However, Susie was determined to go above and beyond. She got a dozen neighborhood kids, including three of her own, to decorate their bikes and wear patriotic outfits. “They went all out. They wanted to make sure this parade was done right.”

Susie had just four hours to get the task done and, if you ask Shelly, the result was emotional and much more than she could ever have expected.

“They all came up to my dad and shook his hand,” Shelly said wiping away a tear. “That meant a lot to my dad. Here we are, down to two-year-olds wanting to see a WWII vet.”

The kids paraded around the block as Leon watched from a lawn chair in his daughter’s driveway; a young violinist from a few houses down even played patriotic music so Leon could hear.

Shelly Swendsen is Leon’s daughter. She came up with the idea to throw him a surprise parade

“I could see my dad tearing up; how important it was to him that he was able to celebrate a little bit,” smiled Shelly.

Leon’s personal parade proved to be a fitting event for a man who’s given so much to the country he loves.

Shannon Rousseau

Shannon Rousseau

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