JACKSONVILLE, N.C. --
Draped in cozy blankets and patriotic scarves, thousands of enthusiastic community members braved the chilly weather Saturday morning to honor former and current service members at Jacksonville’s 18th annual Veteran’s Day Parade.
The local Rolling Thunder Chapter NC-5 has organized the event since 2005 to recognize all who served and to support the military community.
“It’s an honor,” said Cribelar. “Every time there’s been a parade, I’m usually marching in it, so this is an honor and privilege,” said Max Cribelar, the parade’s grand marshal and a World War II, Korea and Vietnam veteran.
Veterans Day was originally commemorated as Armistice Day to recognize those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in World War I, but was later renamed to recognize all service members of every war.
“We want to honor veterans and what better way than to organize a parade in their honor,” said Paul Levesque, coordinator for the parade and president of the local Rolling Thunder Chapter.
The parade kicked off with the national anthem, sung by Jesse Hansley and Jane Sutton, both members of the local Rolling Thunder Chapter NC-5.
The 2nd Marine Division Band and color guard led the parade down Western Boulevard and a formation of Marines from Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools, Camp Johnson, marched proudly.
Members of the Jacksonville Military Widows Association were in attendance to pay tribute and give thanks.
“Our veterans need and deserve to be recognized for the sacrifices they’ve made for each and every one of us,” said Margaret Brown, president of the Jacksonville Military Widows Association. “As military widows, we couldn’t be more grateful to have such a place to remember and honor our husbands.”
One hundred local organizations were represented in the parade to include: the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9133, the Women Marines Association, local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops and the Jacksonville Fire Department, among many others.
“I was amazed at the amount of people who came out to support the veterans,” said Levesque. “We’ve always had great turnouts, but nothing like this before. It was truly heartwarming. The parade participants and public support this year was absolutely awesome.”
Shawn Allen, a Marine veteran, cheered on his son who paraded with the Northside High School marching band. He recounted his own participation in the 1999 Jacksonville Veterans Day Parade. “I was in the Mount Suribachi flag raising reenactment, and have come every year to support my fellow Marines and service members,” said Allen. “It’s a chance to honor those who have paid the ultimate price.”
Allen added it’s important to educate the kids on what this day is really about.
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