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Veterans honored along Memorial Day parade route
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Jerry Lothridge with the Lanier Shrine Club drives around Monday during the Memorial Day parade on Green Street in Gainesville. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Thousands of spectators waving or wearing red, white and blue watched and applauded Monday morning as the 14th annual Memorial Day parade moved down Green Street and honored veterans from World War II to Afghanistan.

The applause followed veterans along the route as cars, SUVs and floats carrying them rolled toward downtown.

The parade featured the usual lineup of veterans, emergency response vehicles with horns and sirens, Boy Scout and Girl Scout units, high school bands, churches and veterans groups. The Paul E. Bolding American Legion Post 7 again was the organizer for the 90-minute parade.

Spectators lined both sides of Green Street and were three to five layers deep in the shady areas.

Some spectators took advantage of the rocking chairs on porches on the old houses along Green Street.

“This parade is amazing,” proclaimed Korean War veteran Larry Vecellio, watching and waving to vets he knew.

Vecellio served 13 months in Korea, he said. He moved to this area from Pennsylvania 46 years ago.

“This is too nice down here,” he said.

He lives on the lake in Forsyth County with a Gainesville mailing address. Vecellio said he is in the Knights of Columbus at St. Michael Catholic Church in Gainesville.

Tiny babies — at least two who were about 2 months old — and tiny dogs accompanied parents, siblings and owners.

Four motorcycles, two from the Hall County Sheriff’s Office and two from the Gainesville Police Department, led the parade.

The Chestatee High School band was near the front and playing, “God Bless America.”

First-time parade attendees Quint Morris and Terri Hatfield had red, white and blue “top hats.” The Gainesville residents said they would save them for July 4 and other patriotic occasions.

A Confederate honor guard startled the crowd with a volley of shots.

Five cars with Afghanistan veterans rode together. Vietnam veterans were represented in a number of groups and vehicles. The Korean War also had vehicles with veterans waving.

Many of the vehicles had signs “in honor of …” or “in memory of …” with veterans’ names, especially from World War II.

Don Caskey of Lula, another transplant to the area, said, “I think this is worth getting out of bed and getting downtown.” He was one who took advantage of a rocking chair in the shade.

The Gainesville High School band was toward the back — but far from the rear of the parade — with “America the Beautiful.”

Carolyn Ashley and Jane Neece moved their chairs from a driveway to the side yard. Both are previous parade spectators.

“We’re following the shade,” Ashley said.