11/08/09 — Warsaw gathers to hold area's first parade to honor veterans

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Warsaw gathers to hold area's first parade to honor veterans

By Laura Collins
Published in News on November 8, 2009 1:50 AM

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Linda Thompson, Ladies Auxiliary president for VFW Post 9810 in Warsaw, left, and Sammie Southerland, Auxiliary secretary, lay a wreath at Veterans Park before the town's Veterans Day parade.

WARSAW -- As World War II was coming to an end, Ralph Vernon, 84, was given a task that he would remember forever.

At the time, he didn't realize the weight of its significance, but 65 years later, it's clear.

"At the end of World War II, I opened the gate at a concentration camp in Germany to let the people out. At 18 or 19 years old, you don't realize what that means. But now ..." he trailed off, then added, "You wouldn't believe what I saw."

His friend and fellow veteran Dan Jolly, 85, understood the magnitude of Vernon's seemingly simple act.

"And that alone is enough for all of this," Jolly said, referring to the Warsaw Veterans Day Celebration.

People came out in droves and lined the streets in Warsaw for the 89th Annual Veterans Day Celebration Saturday, which included a pancake breakfast, sidewalk sale, memorial service at Veteran's Park, parade and barbecue lunch.

The VFW Post 9810 memorial service featured keynote speaker Barbara Hedin, pastor of Grove Presbyterian Church. Ms. Hedin focused on this year's celebration theme, "We Will Never Forget."

"I wonder if you have thought about what a bold declaration that is. If I asked most of you what you did last weekend or even yesterday, I'd probably get a lot of blank stares," she said. "And yet, we publicly proclaim we will never forget. We are a people who seem to be very prone to forgetting these days."

She said forgetfulness has become a cultural issue with so many people multi-tasking and racing through life, they aren't giving full attention to the present moment.

"This is a bold statement to make this Veterans Week because this has always been a human condition," she said. "We forget to whom we belong, we forget who we are, we forget those standing in harm's way so that we can live in freedom and security. We also forget to say thank you."

Ms. Hedin added that forgetting is not something that typically plagues veterans.

"Perhaps there are things we'd like to forget, but as a Vietnam veteran myself, I know that my war experience has been a daily reality for many years. I and other veterans are generally not in danger of forgetting this soul-wrenching time in our life," she said. "How will the wider community not forget those who have given their lives?"

Ms. Hedin said veterans also play a part in helping people remember those who have and are serving.

"Those of us who have experienced war have a special responsibility within society because we have been there, we know its effect on us, and we're much less likely to forget, so we bear the responsibility to see that our brothers and sisters are remembered while they are serving and their families are remembered if they do not return," she said.

In closing, Ms. Hedin said there are lessons people can learn from veterans.

"Our culture seems to want to teach us that we are invincible islands, individuals and self-sufficient," she said. "But veterans have learned that their lives depend on others, their very survival has often depended on the alertness and quick action of their comrades."

The memorial service was followed by a C130 flyover and parade. The first several floats carried veterans from both past wars and North Carolina veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq. Each float with veterans stopped in front of the viewing stand, which also held veterans, as they saluted.

Acting as marshals for the event were veterans who have served in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Husband and wife Vance and Karen Hill, of Deep Run, said they haven't missed a Veterans Day parade in more than 40 years. They both have brothers who are veterans and said it's important to them to take time out for the parade every year.

"We're just celebrating our veterans," Mrs. Hill said. "The ones that survived and the ones that didn't. They all made it possible for us to be here today."