Veterans, their friends and family members, residents and excited children lined Gainesville’s Green Street Monday morning for the 2014 Memorial Day parade.
“I loved it,” Gregory Hale said when the final cars drifted by. “My daddy was a veteran in the Army.”
The 12th annual event, presented by the American Legion Paul E. Bolding Post 7, featured servicemen and women from World War II and Korea all the way up through current enlisted soldiers.
It was both reflective and celebratory, as spectators applauded and cheered while veterans walked by, many yelling out their appreciation for the veterans’ service. World War II veteran Cecil Boswell garnered some of the loudest cheers as he made his annual appearance, marching in the parade in the same uniform he wore when discharged from the U.S. Army.
Multiple youth groups were represented, while high school bands were spaced intermittently along the parade route piping out patriotic music. Even some politicians made the rounds, with U.S. Rep. Doug Collins serving as the parade’s honorary grand marshal.
As children darted around picking up candy, adults used the opportunity to reflect on their friends and loved ones who had served.
“My husband was a veteran; he just passed away in October,” Judi Pittman said as she sat in a shady spot along the parade route. Her husband is the late James Pittman. “He served two tours in Vietnam.”
She said her husband, who was 70, died from complications of exposure to Agent Orange, an herbicide used by the United States during the Vietnam War and recognized as a cause for many health problems among Vietnam veterans.
“It’s been really hard without him,” Pittman said. “(But) we always come (to the parade). We just thoroughly enjoy it.”
The parade was not the only marker of the holiday; multiple ceremonies were held around the county, including in Lula’s Veterans Park.
A somber tone was struck at Memorial Park as the honor guards of the Hall sheriff’s office, Gainesville police department and Georgia Army National Guard Burial Honor’s unit held a 24-hour marching vigil in the Veterans’ Garden at the cemetery.
The deputies replicated the exact maneuvers done at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, with a changing of the guard every 30-45 minutes.
“It’s a day that we put aside to remember our fallen heroes and to pray that no hero will ever have to die for us again,” Sheriff Gerald Couch said at a small ceremony on Monday. “It’s a day of thanks for the valor of others, (and) a day to remember the greatness of America and those that made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our freedom.”
Flying above the site was the United States Honor Flag, which has flown over the site of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks at ground zero. A trumpeter performed “Taps” and “Amazing Grace.”
While a day designated to remember fallen soldiers, Americans also use Memorial Day to mark the beginning of the summer season. Many took advantage of the clear skies and warm temperatures to spend some time outdoors.
“I’m just enjoying the crowd,” said Harvey Smith at the parade. “I enjoy getting out and away from the house.”