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Memorial Day Parade honors fallen veterans
Gainesvilles annual event includes slew of high school bands
Parade watchers line Green Street Monday morning for the 13th annual Memorial Day Parade, put on by the American Legion's Paul E. Bolding Post 7.

Young and old lined both sides of Green Street on Monday, waving flags and cheering.

The 13th annual Memorial Day Parade drew an enormous crowd to downtown Gainesville, stretching from Green Street onto E.E. Butler Parkway and Spring Street. The parade featured a wide variety of participants honoring those who died fighting for this country.

A slew of high school bands participated in the parade, including Gainesville, Johnson, Lumpkin County, West Hall, East Hall, Flowery Branch and Chestatee high schools.

“Daniel Merck, he’s the band director for Chestatee, he had talked his students into participating in the parade here even though school is out,” said Mickey Bone, a retired Army veteran who served in Germany in the late 1960s. “They voluntarily come back, and they were the only live band we had to start with. Now it’s really grown.”

Patches of blue sky peeked through the clouds while temperatures remained in the 60s throughout the morning’s parade.

A number of veterans walked or rode in the parade as well, including the Smallwood brothers: John Smallwood, 91, Howell Smallwood, 89, and Horace Smallwood, 87, who all served in World War II.

Fellow World War II veteran Cecil Boswell made his annual appearance, marching in the same uniform he wore when discharged from the U.S. Army.

“I can’t even get my leg in my old uniform,” Mickey Bone joked.

“I like to see Mr. Boswell walk,” Susan Bone said. “He walks; he never rides."

A few politicians participated in the parade as well, including state Rep. Emory Dunahoo (R-Gainesville), who tossed candy, and state Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), who passed out small American flags.

While the environment was festive, Memorial Day is a somber occasion for many.

“We’ve been coming ever since it started,” Mickey Bone said. “We even came the year it rained out. We’re here to honor the veterans that have fallen. That’s why we’re all here.”

Danny Strickland also attended the parade Monday. He said he attends each year to honor the veterans who made the sacrifice he didn’t have to make.

“I was very fortunate because I didn’t have to, though I would have,” Strickland said. “I think I missed something, and the older I get, I appreciate it more and more.”

Susan Bone said she thinks younger generations don’t share the same appreciation, and her husband said it’s important to educate the youth on the value of service.

“I still feel cheated sometimes,” Mickey Bone said. “Even though I served from ’67 to ’68 in Germany … I felt like I should have gone over with my other friends, some of whom didn’t come back.”

Susan Bone said young people today are more fortunate, because they haven’t lost as many friends and loved ones to war.

“It was strange, being 17 or 18 and going to funerals,” she said. “You knew when they went that most of the time, they weren’t coming back.”