11/12/08 — Tribute to heroes: Wayne County thanks those who served

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Tribute to heroes: Wayne County thanks those who served

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 12, 2008 1:46 PM

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Kate Hoover, 3, waves a U.S. flag during the annual Veterans Day Parade in downtown Goldsboro.


Ed Shumate, a retired pilot, remembers flying a C-47 during World War II and how he carried a U.S. flag with him on missions over China and Burma. He brought that flag with him to the annual Veterans Day Parade in Goldsboro Tuesday.

Ed Shumate reaches a hand into his pocket before revealing the tattered piece of silk he has carried around for more than 60 years.

"It's about to go, isn't it?" he said. "But you should still be able to make out the words."

A few lines are printed on the cloth in English and more than a dozen other languages.

So is the American flag.

"Dear friend, I am an Allied pilot," it reads. "I did not come here to do any harm to you who are my friends. I only want to do harm to the Japanese."

"The flags were carried in our pockets (during World War II)," Shumate said. "Just in case we went down in the jungle."

A Tuesday morning parade brought with it everything you might come to expect from a smalltown Veterans Day celebration.

There were children waving American flags -- reaching every few moments for candy flying off the military vehicles slowly rolling by.

There were high school bands, Girl Scout troops and community leaders -- standing together with hands over hearts while the local fair queen sang the national anthem.

And then there were veterans like Shumate, the reason each along Center Street endured a crisp, chilly breeze for the better part of two hours on their day off.

Goldsboro Mayor Al King said he can't remember the last time so many hundreds gathered downtown to honor those who have served and those who currently serve.

"I've been through an awful lot of these things," he said. "But none any better than this."

Lawson Miller agreed.

The 14-year-old has attended several parades and other celebrations downtown with his parents over the years, but something about this particular event just seemed "better."

"Did you see the Goldsboro High School Band? Those kids are amazing," he said. "But my favorite part was the Air Force guys. I am going to tell every one of them that I meet that I'm going to fly one day. That and thanks for what they are doing."

Lawson likely had plenty of opportunities.

Seymour Johnson Air Force Base airmen were everywhere -- both in the parade and its audience, including 4th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Mark Kelly.

Willie Howard called it "fitting" and "right."

"These are your future veterans right here," he said, pointing to the 4th marching flight making its way down Center Street. "I hope we honor them like this every year."

Maria Freeman, 50, said she will -- for her father, Harold.

"Seeing these men and women here in uniform, it makes me think of him," she said.

But for another woman, seeing aging veterans in uniform was a reminder of a "dark time."

So she approached one of them, retired Army Maj. Bob Stone.

"I remember when we weren't so good to our troops. I saw how they were treated when they came home, the Vietnam veterans," she said, placing a hand on Stone's shoulder.

"I'm one of them," he replied. "I'm one of them."

"Well then, welcome home," the woman said. "And I mean that as if I were saying it the day you came home from that place. Welcome home and God bless."