The names of U.S. soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice were paraded along Green Street on Monday, May 27.
Doug Edwards walked during the 17th annual Memorial Day parade in Gainesville, helping fellow veterans lift a banner with a list of Georgians who died in the Vietnam War.
Monday was one of many days he spent remembering his lost comrades.
“I was in Vietnam and came back, and a lot of people didn’t,” Edwards said. “People need to take a second and honor the people that didn’t come back. They’re the reason for our freedom.”
Sponsored by the Paul E. Bolding American Legion Post 7 and the Northeast Georgia Veterans Coalition, the parade kicked off with a flyover by a yellow airplane with the words “U.S. Army” painted on its wings. Hotrods, vintage cars, tractors, fire trucks, police cars and other patriotic automobiles drove through town, some transporting World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans.
Kevin Littlejohn, retired U.S. Army veteran, said the community should also keep dead soldiers’ families in mind when celebrating Memorial Day.
“Some of these people we’re honoring, they were 19 or 20 years old,” Littlejohn said. “They had their whole life in front of them, but they took the time to say, ‘I was to serve my country first.’ And they paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Many of those who drove or walked in the parade consider themselves longtime participants, including Gainesville Fire Department Chief Jerome Yarbrough.
Yarbrough said his department considers the event a tradition.
“As a veteran myself, it means a lot that I can participate and ad to this great parade,” he said.
High school marching bands from Chestatee, East Hall, Gainesville, Lumpkin County and West Hall performed familiar and patriotic songs.
Larry Miller, Gainesville High School’s marching band director, said he enjoyed witnessing all of the local schools playing active roles in the community.
As children waved their tiny American flags and veterans smiled from car windows, 77-year-old Sandra Walsh soaked in the energetic atmosphere.
Walsh said she has attended the parade for as long as she can remember. Her father, Ralph Roper, served during WWII and the Korean War and died around 10 years ago.
She hopes the community doesn’t take for granted the lives they have because of people like her father.
“They’re gone and would’ve enjoyed the times today, but they gave themselves to help us be a good America,” Walsh said.