11/10/11 — Veterans parade will have 70 entries

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Veterans parade will have 70 entries

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 10, 2011 1:46 PM

Not long after event organizers disclosed that a lack of entries threatened to make this year's Veterans Day parade a forgettable one, the community started to respond.

And by the time the window to sign up a float closed late this morning, more than 70 groups had committed to join the annual procession.

Wayne County Veterans and Patriots Coalition president Bill Graham said his feelings about the event have shifted from concern to elation.

"We have got an outstanding parade," he said. "It's really gonna be a good one."

Groups from across the community are set to participate -- from local law enforcement and veterans groups to some of the men and women from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base who have been engaged in the Global War on Terror since it was waged.

And those who attend should expect Graham to mention what he has preached since planning for the parade began -- that this year, the nation's newest veterans deserve a "memorable" thanks for all they have contributed to fights across the world.

Coalition members anticipated a big turnout -- and record participation -- from "everybody with a patriotic heart," given all that has unfolded this year.

The 10th anniversary of 9/11 was a stark reminder of the sacrifices made by service members stationed at Seymour Johnson and beyond.

And the death of Osama bin Laden and President Barack Obama's announcement that all troops would pull out of Iraq by Christmas brought more reason to celebrate.

So Graham and his comrades were stunned when, with less than two weeks remaining until the parade, only a dozen groups had signed up to march through downtown.

But the angst that accompanied that reality seems now like a distant memory.

"It's gonna be an excellent program," Graham said. "It really is."

The parade will begin along Center Street at 11 a.m. and Vietnam veteran and Wayne County Commissioner Andy Anderson, a retired Air Force pilot, has been chosen to serve as grand marshal.

And given the overwhelming number of entries, the event should last long enough to create an easy transition for those planning to attend the dedication of the Wayne Veterans Memorial at the corner of William and Walnut streets at 12:45 p.m.