By Kari Hawkins, USAG RedstoneNovember 6, 2009
The red, white and blue will be flying high on Veterans Day when the Huntsville community comes out in full force for its annual Veterans Day Parade, Nov. 11.
From the Scouting troops with their floats to the Cahaba Shriners with their tiny hot rod cars to the big brass sounds of local school bands, this year's Veterans Day Parade is sure to be fun for both participants and spectators. And in the center of all that fun will be the Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines honored by the festivities.
"People love the Soldier marching," said retired Sgt. 1st Class David Carney, operations officer for the parade. "We have the most patriotic community in the nation. I hear from people all across the nation that they've never seen a military and civilian community that works so well together. This is a great patriotic community. And, every year, the Veterans Day Parade is the most exciting parade we've ever had."
For sure, every year the parade gets bigger and better. This year, more than 100 entries are expected. There will be seven bands, led off by the impressive Alabama A&M Band; 11 JROTC and ROTC units; and entries by the ever popular Cahaba Shriners, Madison County Heritage Commission, Scouting troops, Vets for Vettes Corvette Club, Patriot Guard Riders, Semper Fi Riders, and dance and twirling groups. There will be several float entries from corporate and community organizations, military hardware and a horse-drawn stagecoach.
The 1,000 Soldiers with Redstone Arsenal's 59th Ordnance Brigade/832nd Ordnance Battalion along with the Arsenal's color guard will be a main part of the festivities.
"This is a day when everyone is bursting with pride because we get to recognize our veterans," Carney said. "This is a day for them to be proud of their nation, and proud of the servicemembers who have worked to make this the greatest nation on earth. This is a time when parents can show their children and their families what it means to serve their country."
The parade begins at 11 a.m. in downtown Huntsville on Clinton Avenue, extends through downtown on Monroe Street, Williams Street and Lincoln Street, then again on Monroe Street and ends on Holmes Avenue. The theme is "Courage, Sacrifice and Duty - Heroes Among Us."
"Last year, we used the Courage, Sacrifice and Duty theme to give recognition to the Huntsville/Madison County Veterans Memorial," Carney said. "But it turned out to be such a strong and powerful theme that we wanted to continue to use it with the addition 'Heroes Among Us' to recognize all the contributions military veterans make to our community."
This year, there is more than one grand marshal. There are six - one World War II veteran representing each of the services.
All veterans are encouraged to wear their medals and ribbons, and even their uniforms at the parade.
"If we as veterans don't show we're proud we served, then why should anyone else' I feel we as veterans - and all adults - have an obligation to teach patriotism to young people, and Veterans Day is a great opportunity to do that," Carney said.
The parade will begin with a cannon blast fired by the Marine Corps Kilo Battery. The first entry will be the parade's lead sponsor - the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army. The beginning of the parade will also include the families of Redstone Arsenal's color guard; the Reserve's 375th Engineer Group, now deployed to Iraq; the Alabama A&M Band; the Hall of Heroes Trolley; Wounded Warriors hosted by Vets for Vettes; and veterans from Tut Fann escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders.
The parade reviewing stand will be located at the beginning of the parade, where Redstone Arsenal commander Maj. Gen. Jim Myles will review the passing troops. Another reviewing stand will be set up at Veterans Memorial Park, where Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command commander Lt. Gen. Kevin Campbell will do the honors. The Huntsville Concert Band and the 19th Alabama Color Guard will be involved in pre-parade activities at veterans park. Following the parade, Boy Scout Troop 400 will perform a flag retirement ceremony at the park.
AUSA and many other local groups - both military affiliated and community affiliated - work together to plan and organize the parade.
"I'm just so impressed with all these organizations who come together to make this happen," Carney said. "The City of Huntsville and the City of Madison both lend their support. The Warrant Officers Association serve as the parade marshals and get the parade entrants lined up. The Air, Space and Missile Defense Association is in charge of getting the bands signed up. The National Defense Industrial Association is in charge of judging floats. And AUSA gets the JROTC and ROTC units involved.
"There are more than 50 organizations involved in the planning of this parade. I get amazed at every one of our organizational meetings with how many different organizations come together for this same goal."
Although the parade is certainly the public's way to show their support for the military and the nation, Veterans Day activities in Huntsville also include a Veterans Day Dinner on Nov. 10, and a Veterans Day Breakfast the morning of Nov. 11.
Four inductees into the Hall of Heroes along with 14 inductees into the Military Order of the Purple Heart will be recognized at the dinner as will three Bronze Star recipients. Four Gold Star Banner families and two Blue Star Service Banner families will be recognized at the breakfast. In the audience at both events will be 29 Wounded Warriors and their spouses hosted by the Semper Fi Community Task Force.