Veterans honored at inaugural parade

Published 11:12 am Monday, November 13, 2023

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Those who came out to honor our local war heroes got an extra treat via the Inaugural Veteran’s Day Parade which was the lead-in for the yearly ceremony held at Rome Cardwell Park in Tazewell.

About 25 vehicles were used to transport veterans up the parade route along Main Street as a massive crowd along both sides of the roadway cheered them on.

The parade ended at the Cardwell Park, giving way to the actual ceremony which included a few new elements this year.

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Members of the Union County Junior ROTC assisted in honoring local veterans during a recognition ceremony of those who served in each branch of the military. The flags were maneuvered by the Junior ROTC from half-staff to full-staff as representative veterans from each branch went forward to stand before the Roll Call of Honor Monument. The five ROTC members manually engaged the flags at half-staff during the lengthy ceremony, maneuvering them during the recognition.

Keynote speaker John McAfee, retired Lt. Colonel of the U.S. Army and Circuit Court Judge for the 8th Judicial District, spoke of the significance of a healthy military.

“I want to talk about the next generation, because that’s what it’s really all about. We have the greatest military in the history of the world. But I tell you, that’s not necessarily what makes this nation great. What makes this nation great is you all. Not everyone gets to serve and we need the nation as a whole to work together. The military can only do its part if the citizenry does its part. So many people served in this nation with honor.

“There’s a lot of strife in this country, a lot of people blaming this one and that one. But I know we’re going to be okay. After seeing this crowd, I know we’re going to be okay.”

McAfee said that, if we as a country pull together and take care of one another without bickering, the United States will continue to be a great nation.

He spoke of three simple rules for maintaining our status as “a great nation.” The first rule is to simply do what’s ‘right’ and avoid doing wrong. Second, strive to always do your best. The last rule involves doing for one another.

“When we walk into a room, we should say ‘here I am; what can I do for you?’ Don’t worry about yourself – that’s un-American, that’s selfish,” said McAfee.

He pointed to the U.S. efforts to ‘rebuild’ Europe following WWII.

“We spent way more money in Europe after the war than we did during the war. That’s because we understood, as a Christian nation, that we have to consider our fellow human beings.”

McAfee talked about fighting for the next generation.

“We’re fighting to give them a chance, an opportunity in this world so they can show love, caring and provide for the world so that we can be a beacon of hope to all the people of the world.”

Ray Eads was named this year’s honorary veteran during the ceremony. His daughter, Sandy, spoke of her father and his way with stories.