Downtown residents were treated to a trip through time this Saturday, as vintage trucks, marching bands with musicians dressed in eighteenth-century clothing and purple hearts from Vietnam to Afghanistan paid heed to America’s military history.
Hundreds of tiny American flags fluttered in the air as Winston-Salem residents came together downtown in order to celebrate the country’s veterans. At 10 a.m., a caravan of military jeeps, floats and cars carrying dignitaries such as the mayor and county sheriff, rolled down Fourth Street as people of all ages cheered. Nearby, a group of boy scouts gaped at a procession of horses while a float created by the Navy Submariners featuring a replica torpedo passed by. People followed as the parade turned onto Liberty Street, where it ended on First Street before the Business 40 overpass.
According to Sgt. Kevin Bowers of the Winston-Salem Police Department downtown bike patrol, who was one of the staging area supervisors for the event, the crowd estimate was about 2,500 people.
Among the crowd were several military families, who expressed their gratitude that the event took place.
“I think it is incredibly important that we recognize the great sacrifices that our veterans and currently enlisted members of the military make in order to protect our everyday freedoms,” said Elise Macdonald, who attended the parade with two of her children. “I want my children to gain an appreciation for the great work that their father does.”
People who participated in the parade also espoused the significance of the parade. Parade organizers estimate that 1,500 people directly participated in the parade, including 11 local high school bands and 12 Junior ROTC units.
“The parade is very inspirational,” said Riley Dunn, from Kernersville, who was participating in the parade with his Junior ROTC unit. “It definitely provides more of a context and a reminder for what service means.”
The annual parade is sponsored by the Triad Vietnam Veterans Association. The association’s vice president, Walt Emery, served as the primary organizer for this year’s event. The council faced obstacles in the forms of residents and businesses complaining about the streets being blocked off by the police during the parade, as well as costs for a $50 permit fee and $500 in liability insurance. In the past, Mayor Allen Joines has paid the permit fee, but this year the association paid for it out of its treasury fund according to Emery. Ultimately, portions of five streets were closed to drivers for approximately two-and-a-half hours and portions of three streets were closed for approximately one hour according to Bowers.
The parade also faced issues in busing the high school students to the meeting area downtown according to Emery. “I’m confident that these issues will be ironed out for next year’s parade,” Emery said.
Emery has been involved with the parade since its inception in the wake of 9/11. He has served nearly two decades in the armed forces before retiring in 1978. He is also a member of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War after his serving during the
The Triad Vietnam Veterans Association also hosts a Memorial Day celebration at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
“Since retiring, I have dedicated my time to veterans’ causes,” Emery said. “Despite the challenges we faced this year, I remain committed to honoring the brave men and women who have defended our country.”