- Last Updated on 07:32 AM 11/12/12
- BY The Gazette-Virginian
Residents filled the sidewalks of downtown South Boston for the annual Veterans Day parade Saturday morning to celebrate those who have risked their lives to protect the country.
The crowd cheered as veterans, members of the Halifax County High School JROTC and the Halifax County High School band and choir along with other local groups made their way down Main Street to Constitution Square.
Following the parade, the crowd gathered around Constitution Square for a ceremony featuring speakers including VFW Past State Commander Tommy Hines, American Legion 5th District Past Commander Wayne Bowen and 5th District Past Commander Robert King.
Bowen, a Vietnam veteran, spoke on the importance of thanking those who have served and those who still serve today.
“ Today we say thank you. Today we stand up for men and women who fought for us and returned home with scars and wounds of war,” Bowen said. “ Standing up to say thank you today is as important as standing up for them any other day they need us.”
Bowen explained Memorial Day is a time to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, but Veterans Day is a time to honor those who have fallen and those who were fortunate enough to make it back home.
“For every service man and woman who pays the ultimate price, 10 more are severely injured or disabled,” Bowen said.
Bowen gave the crowd a brief history of Veterans Day.
“In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day to honor those who served in the first World War. In 1938, it became an official holiday,” Bowen said.
“It wasn’t until 1954, after World War II and the Korean War that Congress, at the urging of veterans service organizations, changed the day to Veterans Day.”
Bowen told the crowd a story of two Marines fighting in the Iraq War who were dedicated, loyal and committed to their jobs as Marines until the end, saving many lives.
Hines’ remarks were similar to Bowen’s, also expressing gratitude towards those have served and who are serving.
He began with a moment of silence for those whose lives were cut short defending their nation and for the families along with people who loved and cherished them.
“Today we honor every man and every woman who has proudly worn the uniform and bravely defended our nation while protecting its people from the evils of this world,” Hines said. “Every American, no matter where they live or what they do, reaps the benefits of their services.”
Hines told the crowd that all across the nation patriotic Americans were gathering at similar events to remember the countless sacrifices of the nation’s veterans.
“As we honor them, we should also reflect on the cost attached to our victories over tyranny and the many liberties we enjoy today because of their selflessness and sacrifices,” Hines said.
“Our veterans cherished the values and virtues upon which our nation was founded and bravely answered the call to preserve them.’
Hines mentioned all the wars America has fought and how the military has more than persevered since all of those darks days.
“ Our armed forces bravely go whereever needed to places like Panama, Lebanon, Haiti, Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia, Granada, Southwest Asia and Operation Desert Storm,” said Hines.
“And today, our military continues to endure the longest sustained war in our history,” Hines added.“ It’s is an undeniable fact that America’s veterans earned every one of the benefits promised to them by making a commitment that 99 percent of other Americans are simply unwilling to make.’
Hines said veterans have earned the right to be treated with dignity and respect, and told the crowd they could help make sure that happens by pushing America’s leaders to do the right thing when it comes to veterans.
Hines ended his speech by offering a prayer of thanks to those currently serving and those who have departed.
King only spoke briefly, but expressed his utmost gratitude to the veterans and troops.