Veterans parade captures past and future
November 5, 2010
- This year, Veterans Park in downtown Huntsville will be the main focal point for the Veterans Day Parade activities.
- The bittersweet farewell and hello represents the worst and best of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act affecting the Arsenal.
- "This parade shows the support the Tennessee Valley has for the military."
- "We want to shift the focus to Veterans Park for all our Veterans Day activities. That has been the long-range plan."
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- This year's Veterans Day Parade and all the other activities surrounding it will represent "something old, something new."
On 11-11-11 - Nov. 11, 11 a.m. - the Huntsville/Tennessee Valley community will get its opportunity to say an official "farewell" to the 59th Ordnance Brigade and the young Soldiers of its 832nd Ordnance Battalion as they make their last full contingent appearance in the parade before moving on to Fort Lee, Va. The day will also give the community a chance to welcome the Arsenal's newest residents with the deputy commander of the Army Materiel Command serving as the parade's grand marshal.
The bittersweet farewell and hello represents the worst and best of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act affecting the Arsenal and the local area.
"The Army Materiel Command is moving down here and it will be the last major command coming to Redstone because of BRAC," Veterans Week chairman Bob Drolet, a retired brigadier general, said.
"We wanted to recognize that major event in a big way by having Lt. Gen. Jim Pillsbury, AMC's deputy, as our grand marshal. Lt. Gen. Pillsbury does have local ties here and previously served as the commanding general of the Aviation and Missile Command, so he was the right choice for us."
But then there's also the farewell.
"We want to honor the 59th Ordnance Brigade and the 832nd Ordnance Battalion because this is their last official action as a full contingent," Drolet said. "Col. Lee Merritt of the 59th Ordnance Brigade will be honored at our Veterans Day dinner and will be in the reviewing stand for the parade. With both the 59th and AMC, we are recognizing a little bit of the old and a little bit of the new. It's a celebration of what we've all been able to achieve in this community."
Although the community is grateful for the thousands of new civilian jobs associated with the BRAC changes at Redstone, there are times when the loss of such a large Soldier contingent overshadows those accomplishments. Many local military representatives say the 2011 parade will look much different from its forerunners because of the loss of the young Soldiers.
"We won't have the great formations, which are so picturesque, or hear the cadences and watch the young Soldiers marching," said John Perry, the parade coordinator.
"This will mean a lot to a lot of people because so many in this community have ties to the (Ordnance Munitions and Electronics Maintenance) school, and the 59th," added Dave Carney, operations officer for Veterans Week activities.
However, the move of AMC and other organizations to Redstone are sure to make their own positive impact on future parades, organizers said. And there is no doubt the area's support of the military will continue to be strong, regardless of changes at Redstone.
"This parade shows the support the Tennessee Valley has for the military. It's like so many other communities (my wife) Becky and I have lived in and visited. But this place takes support to another level," said AMC's Pillsbury, who is humbled by being chosen by his "adopted city" to be its Veterans Day Parade grand marshal.
The "something old, something new" trend of this year's parade is also evident in changes being made to the Veterans Day Parade itself. While the parade will take its traditional route beginning at Clinton Avenue, traveling around the Von Braun Center and Big Spring International Park along Monroe Street and Williams Avenue, through downtown Huntsville, and then down Monroe Street to end on Holmes Street, its reviewing stand has taken on a new location.
All parade activities, including the opening ceremony, cannon firing by the 19th Alabama Regiment and reviewing stand, will be based at the Veterans Memorial Park on Monroe Street. Parade officials, along with reviewing official Lt. Gen. Kevin Campbell of the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, and entertainment will all be at the park. The only event officially beginning the parade on Clinton Avenue this year will be a cannon firing by the Grissom High JROTC unit. WAFF-TV, Channel 48, will broadcast from both the beginning of the parade and the park.
"We want to shift the focus to Veterans Park for all our Veterans Day activities. That has been the long-range plan," Drolet said. "It also works well with our plans for the Veterans Memorial. We will have a groundbreaking for the memorial at Veterans Park this year on Dec. 7. We plan on having a ribbon cutting for the memorial next Veterans Day."
In years past, the reviewing stand has been at the beginning of the parade on Clinton Avenue. Activities at the Veterans Park have grown during the last few years with the addition of the Huntsville Concert Band, hardware displays from the Veterans Museum and re-enactors from the 19th Alabama.
The area is also better for the main focus because of the large amount of space to accommodate crowds, Perry said.
"The Veterans Park is a better location for our main focal point because it's a wide open area," Perry said. "We know people line the streets all along the parade. But the largest crowds are at the park. This year, we are trying to build that crowd up even bigger by offering them free hot dogs and popcorn from Woody Anderson Ford and free drinks from Serra Toyota. They can picnic at the park and then watch the parade. For those who watch the parade from another location on the route, they can always come by before or after the parade to get a free hot dog."
Activities at the park will begin at 10:45 a.m., with a flag ceremony at 11 and a cannon firing at 11:11, and entertainment until the parade - with its estimated 200 entries - makes its first appearance. It's estimated the parade will come around the bend at Monroe and make its appearance at the park at 11:30.
To accommodate the larger crowds, the City of Huntsville will set up two sets of bleachers.
"Last year, we were three, four, five people deep near the park," Perry said. "People end up sitting along the curb and in the grass. Hopefully, this will help with that. We anticipate 1,000 to 1,500 people around the park at parade time."
Following the parade, the Boy Scouts of America will hold a flag retirement ceremony on Monroe Street near the park.
The theme for this year's Veterans Day activities is a repeat from last year -- "Sacrifice, Courage and Duty." Those words will also appear on the memorial. Drolet hopes to repeat another theme for last year - a crowd along the parade route reaching into the thousands.
"It's important to come out and show your support," Drolet said. "We really want to have a huge crowd at the Veterans Park. This is a way for parents to teach their children about patriotism and their country. It's a way for the public to pay their respects to those who have served, to those serving and to those who will serve."
While the Veterans Day Parade is the focal point of Veterans Day activities, there are other events that the public can participate in. They are:
Aca,!Ac Sunday, Nov. 7 - Veterans Memorial Telethon on WAAY-TV, Channel 31 and aired from Woody Anderson Ford, 2 to 4 p.m. The event will raise funds for the Veterans Memorial. Callers can purchase a paver at the memorial or make a general donation. "Veterans Week is a great time to buy a paver in honor of veterans," Drolet said.
Aca,!Ac Monday, Nov. 8 - Fifth annual YMCA Veterans Prayer Breakfast, 7:30 a.m., Craig and Steven Hogan Family YMCA at 130 Park Square Lane, Madison. This is a new location for this annual event. The speaker will be Marine Corps veteran Joe Bongiovanni of the Semper Fi Community Task Force. Tickets are $20 each or a table of eight for $150. Each ticket purchased allows an enlisted Soldier, veteran or family member to attend for free. For tickets, contact Patrice Rowe at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 428-9622, ext. 3007.
Aca,!Ac Wednesday, Nov. 10 - Veterans Day Dinner, Von Braun Center, North Hall, 6 p.m. $100 per ticket. The evening will include the induction of new members into the Madison County Hall of Heroes and the Madison County Chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and recognition of the 59th Ordnance Brigade/832nd Ordnance Battalion, and the 59th commander Col. Lee Merritt. Tickets can be purchased by e-mailing email@example.com.
Aca,!Ac Thursday, Nov. 11 - Veterans Day Breakfast, Von Braun Center, North Hall, 9 a.m.
Sponsored by the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army, City of Madison and the North Alabama Veterans and Fraternal Organizations Coalition. All veterans and veteran groups are invited. Presentations will be made to 10 Blue Star Service Banner families and five Gold Star Service Banner families, and wounded warriors and law enforcement officers involved in the early 2010 shooting tragedy at the University of Alabama-Huntsville.