By Kari Hawkins, Redstone Rocket StaffNovember 5, 2008
What do the Curvy Red Hatters of Hazel Green, tube-launched, an optically-tracked, wire-guided (TOW) Carrier and its mounted TOW II missile, Rocket Taekwondo, U.S. Submarine Veterans, Huntsville Havoc and Rolling Hills Academic Dancing Divas all have in common'
They are among the 120 and counting entries that will appear in Huntsville's annual Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11 beginning at 11 a.m. in downtown. They will be marching down streets lined by hundreds of patriotic Americans who will be cheering, waving flags, celebrating and honoring the nation, its military and its servicemembers under the event's theme - "Courage, Sacrifice, and Duty."
"This is a heck of an event," said retired Brig. Gen. Bob Drolet, who oversees the city's Veterans Day committee. "Isn't it amazing what has happened over the years'
"Twelve years ago, (veterans) Ed Banville and Hal Meeker were organizing a parade that maybe had 50-some units, and there was no Veterans Day dinner or breakfast. Since then, we've all worked hard and have been able to expand and grow this event."
Veterans Day in Huntsville is an event that includes more than the flagship parade. This year, it includes four days of activities - many open to the public - that kick off on Nov. 7 with the arrival of the Marines' Wounded Warriors, continue on Nov. 8 with a Heroes Run, Association of the U.S. Army-sponsored Military Night at a University of Alabama-Huntsville hockey game and a Marine Ball, on Nov. 10 with a YMCA Prayer Breakfast, a Senior Center Big Band veterans concert and a Veterans Day dinner and on Nov. 11 with a Veterans Day breakfast followed by the parade and conclude in the afternoon of Nov. 11 with a Veterans Museum Open House, veterans memorial unveiling in Madison and a retiring of the colors ceremony in Veterans Memorial Park.
The events surrounding Veterans Day have been made possible, Drolet said, by volunteers and an entire community eager to show its respect for the nation and the military.
"All you need is a group of people willing to pull things together to provide an avenue through which the community can show its respect and admiration," he said.
The end result - downtown Huntsville streets filled with patriotic Americans.
"It just goes to show you that this town is absolutely the most committed town to supporting the men and women of the military, past and present," he said.
"It's incredible the way people traditionally support events like this. The turnout is always overwhelming. Folks will be wearing red, white and blue. They will be cheering and waving flags. Everyone gets emotionally wrapped up in this. There's a lot of love in this city for our nation."
This year's theme - "Courage, Sacrifice, and Duty" - was chosen in honor of the Veterans Memorial that will someday grace Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Huntsville. The words "Courage," "Sacrifice" and "Duty" are all part of the memorial design.
As in years past, the parade will kick off at 10:45 a.m. with a salute ceremony. The parade will then begin with the traditional firing of a Revolutionary War cannon followed by the parade's first entry -- students from the lead school in the Veterans Memorial Coin Drop Campaign carrying the parade's "Courage, Sacrifice, and Duty" theme banner. They will be followed by grand marshals, Redstone Arsenal and AMCOM commander Maj. Gen. Jim Myles and his wife, Alice. Lt. Gen. Kevin Campbell, commander of the Space and Missile Defense Command, and his wife, Kathy, will be the reviewing officers.
The two-mile parade will first pass by the reviewing stand on Clinton Avenue, then turn right on Monroe Street, turn left on Williams Avenue, turn left on Lincoln Street, continue along as Lincoln turns into Monroe Street, and then turn right on Holmes Avenue.
Parade entries include eight floats and six marching bands, including the Alabama A&M University Maroon and Gold, along with local JROTC programs, VFW, American Legion, and Elk Lodge groups and fire departments along with the Cahaba Shriners, Jewish War Veterans, 82nd Airborne Association-Vulcan Chapter, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Chapter 443, Military Officers Association of America, Hunts Spring Chapter-Daughters of the American Revolution, the American Red Cross, the Rocket City Owners Group and Huntsville Ballet Company. Military hardware will include the Bradley Fighting Vehicles, HIMARS and SLAMRAAM.
One of the highlights of the parade will be the estimated 1,000 Soldiers from Redstone Arsenal who will be marching.
Also making an appearance in the parade will be the veterans inducted in the Madison County Military Hall of Heroes and the Military Order of the Purple Heart at the Veterans Day Dinner as well as veterans from Tut Fann State Veterans Home chaperoned by Patriot Guard Riders and the 22 Wounded Warrior Marines and one wounded Soldier who will be visiting Huntsville as part of the second annual Wounded Warrior program sponsored by the Semper Fi Community Task Force.
The parade will end with a lot of big noise from one of the area's best high school bands - the Johnson High School Marching Band accompanied by the Johnson High Marine Corps JROTC.
"The parade pulls in all kinds of folks from the community," Drolet said. "It's a community cohesive event that we can all celebrate."
Commentary on the parade will take place at the reviewing stand on Clinton Avenue where WAFF's Lee Marshall and local veteran Max Bennett will announce each entry. Commentary will also be provided toward the end of the parade at the Veterans Memorial Park on Monroe Street, where veteran John Perry will be joined by WAFF's Brad Travis and veteran John Bongiovanni. The Huntsville Concert Band will also perform for the crowd at the park.
There will be a live telecast of the parade on WAFF-48 as well as repeat airings at 3 a.m. Nov. 12 and 11 a.m. Nov. 16.
Sponsors for Veterans Day activities are the Air, Space & Missile Defense Association, Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army, City of Huntsville, City of Madison, Madison County Commission, Madison County Military Heritage Commission, Military Order of the Purple Heart, National Defense Industrial Association, Redstone Chapter of the Warrant Officers Association, Team Redstone, North Alabama Veterans & Fraternal Organizations Coalition, WAFF-TV and Woody Anderson Ford.
Events surrounding Veterans Day include:
Aca,!Ac Friday, Nov. 7 - 2:30 p.m.: Wounded Warriors arrive at Huntsville International Airport; 6:30 p.m.: Reception for Wounded Warriors at the Heritage Club in downtown Huntsville.
Aca,!Ac Saturday, Nov. 8 - 8 a.m.: Heroes 5K Run beginning at Hillwood Baptist Church, Mountain Gap Road and Memorial Parkway, $15, www.huntsvilletrackclub.org; 6 p.m.: Marine Corps Ball (Tickets: 541-6287); 7:05 p.m.: AUSA Military Night, UAH vs. Bemidji State at the Von Braun Center Arena (Tickets at the VBC box office).
Aca,!Ac Monday, Nov. 10 -- 7:30 a.m.: YMCA Prayer Breakfast at Huntsville Museum of Art (Tickets: Mike Taylor, 428-9622, ext. 3004); 2 p.m.: Senior Center Big Band Special Concert for veterans, Senior Center; 5:30 p.m.: Veterans Day Reception and Dinner (Tickets: $100, contact Linda Crutcher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 722-4260 for reservations).
Aca,!Ac Tuesday, Nov. 11 -- 9 a.m.: Veterans Day Breakfast (Tickets: $50, contact Linda Crutcher at email@example.com or 722-4260 for reservations), Speaker: retired Air Force Col. and Vietnam POW Leo Thorsness; 10:45 a.m.: Pre-Parade Ceremony at Von Braun Center; 11 a.m.: Parade kickoff; After parade: Veterans Museum Open House (free admission); 3:30 p.m.: Veterans Memorial Unveiling at City of Madison; 4 p.m.: Retiring of the Colors by Boy Scouts Troop 400 at Veterans Memorial Park.