It was as cold as winter Saturday, yet Clarksville remained determined. People of varying ages, ethnicities and genders all braved the weather in a city-wide event: a parade. The parade was in honor of veterans and the daily sacrifices they make, both past and present.
The Clarksville-Montgomery County Veterans Day parade started on Saturday, Nov. 11 at 10 a.m. next to the Sundquist Science Complex at APSU. This year’s parade theme was “A Special Tribute to World War II Veterans – The Greatest Generation.” Several different associations participated in the event; most of them hosted by veterans themselves.
“It always warms me up to see the recognition,” army veteran Jerry Wayman, representing Screaming Eagle Chapter 457, said. “That is why I have been doing this for over 30 years.”
The parade toured streets near APSU, going through University Avenue, Main Street and Commerce Street.
Not only is recognition important to these veterans, the mere ability to participate in an event like this in it of itself is a pleasure due to the risk of a foreshortened life. Most of the veterans participating in the event were not even there for themselves, but rather their fallen comrades.
“A little gesture, or ‘thank you’ towards me today, might be impossible tomorrow,” Vietnam veteran Lon McDaniel said. “[Veterans] might be young at heart, but we are so old.”
McDaniel represented the Retired Enlisted Association that meets every now and again to eat, laugh and discuss ways to help other veterans any way they can.
The other members of the association along with McDaniel laughed together throughout the hour-long wait in the cold for the parade to begin.
Vietnam veteran Keith Hazelwood brought family along and mentioned how special it was for him to still be around to see his sons’ children grow.
“I was inspired to join the military because of my father,” Lieutenant Jonathan Hazelwood said. “It is that inspiration that makes today special. The younger generation has literal heroes to look up to.”
Hazelwood said he joined the parade to support his father and brought his wife and two sons with him. He said serving in the nations’ military is tough at times, but the greatest honor he could ever receive.
Veterans’ families make significant but silent sacrifices every single day. Whether it is to honor the loss of a loved one, to respect the necessary flexibility of living arrangements or to adapt and re-adapt to lifestyles.
The Gold Star Wives made an impact at the parade representing this variety of goals. Lottie Lane, widowed spouse of a Vietnam veteran, along with many more women, honored the families that have lived with aftermath of losing a loved one to war.
“Families are their backbone,” Lane said. “In order to fight, [the soldiers] need something to fight for. Families are something to fight for.”
Veterans day is a celebration to honor American veterans for their patriotism, courage, love of country and willingness to sacrifice for the common good.
Though not all veterans served in active combat, every one who served is to be celebrated as every one who served in the Armed Forces played a vital role in securing our freedoms.
As the crowd marched through the autumn weather, it seemed their spirits remained just as bright as when they served years ago, and both veterans and regular citizens seemed to feel it.
“The cold is no match for the love I am seeing here today,” Vietnam veteran Joe Velasquez said.