As the brass band played in the background, Vietnam veteran Jeff Williamson gazed upon his fellow veteran companions from his wheelchair, surrounded by family, friends, and community supporters.
Seventy-five-year-old Vietnam veteran Williamson traveled a great distance from his home in Louisiana to witness this Veterans Day parade.
“Five years ago I was visiting my relatives in Winston-Salem, and have come back every year because of how well done this parade is,” said Williamson.
Williamson served five years as a tank operator before returning to his home in Atlanta, Georgia.
“This parade is about appreciating how fortunate veteran survivors are, and to recognize the fallen soldiers along the way,” said Williamson. “It is a great sight to see all of the support from local companies, in the last 5 years the parade has grown in supporters.”
The Triad Vietnam Veterans Association coordinated the Veterans Day parade that took place at 10AM on November 11th.
Liberty and Fourth Street were lined with the friends, family, and supporters of the veteran’s community on a sunny fall morning in downtown Winston-Salem.
Twenty-six floats were lined up on Fourth Street, with veterans in uniform positioned on them, as well as floats consisting of companies in support of the parade.
The veterans stationed on the floats were in full uniform as they received applause from the audience, thanking them for their service.
Two floats were occupied by the Bachelor Boys Band, a brass band originating in Winston-Salem. The Bachelor Boys Band tours around the North and South Carolina performing at festivals and concert venues.
This is the 21st year of the Downtown parade, but only the fifth year taking place on Liberty and Fourth streets. The parade used to be held on North Church Street, but chief organizer Walt Emery believed it was time to change locations.
“We wanted to move to a wider street to allow for more room for spectators, and I believe it has made the parade much more appealing,” said Emery.
Emery is in his 16th year as the chief organizer of the thirty minute parade that attracts thousands each year to the streets of Downtown.
“I feel that with each year of doing this parade, more supporters come out, more companies show their support for a great cause,” he said.
Many companies came out to show their support, including Winston Packaging, with their marketing director Susan Gordon in attendance.
“We understand the sacrifice these veterans made, and always make sure to show our support each year in the parade,” said Gordon.
With every event planned, there is a main focus of making sure everything runs according to plan.
“This year was particularly stressful because some of the floats were out of order in line, which lead to some confusion,” said Emery.
Another Vietnam veteran, 71-year-old Randy Dawson came from his home in Austin, Texas, where he lives with his wife Elizabeth.
Dawson received a Bronze Star Medal for his service in the Vietnam War. This medal awards United States Armed Forces for heroic achievement in a combat zone, according to Dawson.
“When I was recognized with this award, it validated all the sacrifices I made for my country,” said Dawson. “This was my first time at the Winston-Salem parade, and I was surprised with the amount of community involvement in the event.”