11/13/07 — Hundreds line streets to honor local veterans, and those long gone

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Hundreds line streets to honor local veterans, and those long gone

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 13, 2007 1:54 PM

Lynwood Sutherland approached Center Street alone Monday morning.

The "buddies" he used to attend Goldsboro's annual Veterans Day parade with are no longer living, he said.

So this year, he showed up to honor them.

"It's hard going on sometimes," the 66-year-old said. "That's why you come to a gathering like this, I reckon -- the fellowship and all."

But by the time he arrived, he admits he did not feel much like shaking hands or accepting praise for defending his country.

"I'm just glad I decided to come as me," Sutherland said. "The captain stayed back at the house."

The Wayne County resident will tell you he was "just another sailor."

"Someone else did it better than me," he said.

Maybe that is why he left his uniform hanging in a closet miles away, his 'Vietnam Veteran' cap on the coat rack by his front door.

In his mind, the thank-yous belonged to those with more stories to spare.

But Sutherland is still a patriot.

So when the Goldsboro High School marching band stopped in front of the VIP platform and played the national anthem, he brought his hand up to salute one of the American flags in his view.

Then he wept.

A windy, chilly, fall morning saw thousands of local residents and veterans come together downtown to celebrate those who fought and those still fighting for freedom across the world.

Some came for the candy raining down off floats passing by.

Others just wanted to wave that flag and cheer.

But all who showed up along Center Street had one thing in common -- a desire to shake the hands of "living legends" and to rally behind members of the local community currently fighting for freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One woman said it was "fitting" that 4th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Steve Kwast was the keynote speaker at the event.

After all, his jets and airmen have been deploying to theater for years now.

Many, though, said they had no idea Kwast's speech would hit home as much as it did.

"Today is a day to remember that those things in life that are worthwhile, you have to fight to keep," Kwast said. "I am wearing this uniform today only because better men and women gave of themselves. You are standing out there right now."

Those in the crowd began looking around.

One man gave a Vietnam veteran to his left a pat on the shoulder and said, "Thanks for everything you did."

And then there was Sutherland, saluting again when Kwast finished speaking before looking down to the ground and muttering something in half a voice.

"I was praying for my crew," he said. "They would have sure loved to see that man speak, I reckon."

And they would have loved watching the marching bands, fire trucks, active-duty fighter squadrons and ROTC classes that marched through the heart of a military town.

But Sutherland, a self-described "devout Christian," said he took some solace in knowing that maybe they did not miss it.

"You have to believe they are looking down," he said. "If that's so, God bless them."