Estonia, Latvia Joining Forces for National V-Day Commemoration ({{commentsTotal}})

Preparations for the June 23 Estonian Victory Day parade in Valga are in full swing ahead of the 11:00 start.

Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Latvian President Andris Bērziņš will preside over the solemnities and festivities in what will be the most international observance to date of the holiday, which celebrates a 1919 Estonian military victory in Latvia.

Unlike the February Independence Day festivities, which are organized by the Defense Forces, the volunteer home guard is the one shouldering the main organizing duties for the Monday events. 

Southern Estonian home guard districts will be marching along with the Women's Voluntary Defense Organization, the home guard's youth groups, the Latvian military and Zemessardze (home guard), the an American company and flag units from War of Independence allies Finland, Sweden, Denmark and the UK. Orchestras from the Defense Forces, Police and Border Guard, Defense League and Latvian Defense Forces will play.

The 1,300-strong parade will be led by Brig. Gen. Meelis Kiili, the commander of the Defense League.

If the weather is good (though it is not expected to be), the parade will culminate in a flyover by NATO and Estonian aircraft - Danish F-16s, Polish MIG-29s and British Typhoon and Estonian helicopters.

The parade route will lead across the border into Latvia, where there will be another line-up in a town park. At that point, the Latvian units will go their separate way.

In a tradition, pea soup will be served to the people in both Valga and Valka.

Before the parade, the day's festivities will start at 9:00 at the War of Independence monument in Valga. There a ceremonial flame will be lighted and taken to Tori, in neighbouring Pärnu County, the site of the veterans' church.

Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas is expected to speak at the monument.

There will then be a church service at St. John's Church in Valga at 10:00.

Victory Day celebrations are also taking place in other counties (link to the relevant home guard page).

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