11/11/12 — Veterans thanked at parade, wreath-laying

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Veterans thanked at parade, wreath-laying

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 11, 2012 1:50 AM

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Elijah Phillips of Cub Scout Pack 92 carries sign thanking veterans while he marches in the Veterans Day Parade in Goldsboro.

His left hand waving an undersized American flag, Jesse Fitzsimmons looked up when a group of 4th Fighter Wing airmen passed by the spot he and his mother, Nicole, shared along Center Street for the better part of an hour Saturday morning.

But those men and women had no idea that the 5-year-old was on hand to honor two of their comrades -- that both his father, Noah, and stepfather, Kendell Cummins, are currently serving at an Air Force base overseas.

And they might not have even noticed that James Thompson saluted them until their formation was out of sight -- that he, too, once swore to defend the nation against its enemies.

"That's the best thing about these parades," said Thompson, a Vietnam veteran. "You get to see how people feel about our service people when they think nobody's looking."

There were politicians and pageant winners sitting in the back seats of slow rolling cars.

The sound of firetruck sirens and motorcycles echoed off the buildings.

Candy rained down from those sitting on vehicle roofs.

Children danced to the beats provided by high school marching bands.

It was, in many ways, what you might expect from a small town parade.

But for those who have served -- and those currently serving -- the Wayne County Veterans and Patriots Coalition's annual Veterans Day Parade was about more than the celebration enjoyed by the hundreds who converged in downtown Goldsboro.

It was another chance, they say, to thank the men and women they fought alongside -- and those cut down in their prime.

Coalition President Bill Graham vowed to help ensure that no veteran is ever left behind.

"To our present warriors, we, as veterans, know that no matter when or where they deploy, no matter the conflict, no matter the war, our forces will come home and find their place among those that so proudly served before them," he said. "They find themselves banded with us."

Joseph Miller, an Operation Desert Storm veteran, agreed.

"That's really what Veterans Day should be about," he said. "Honoring the fallen by standing with those who made it home -- until the end."

Just more than an hour after the crowd had dissipated, several dozen county residents made that same pledge at the Wayne County Veterans Memorial, a site constructed to ensure the sons of Wayne who never made it home from combat will be remembered always.

They stood as the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Honor Guard posted the colors.

They recited, in one voice, the Pledge of Allegiance.

They watched as members of the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a wreath in honor of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

And some shed tears as a lone bugler belted taps across the grounds.

Michelle Taylor said she never misses an opportunity to shake the hand of a veteran -- and makes room for them, each night, in her prayers.

So before she left the corner of William and Walnut Streets, she kissed her hand and ran it along one of the many plaques that grace the site.

"God, please bless these boys," she said, a tear running down her face. "And let them know how much we love them."