Georgia Veterans Day Parade – Atlanta, Georgia & Freedom Ball – November 12, 2011 (11:11 am kick off)
Greatest Generation, Our World War II Veterans” 30th Annual – Veterans Day Parade and Freedom
12 November 2011
Reported by A Backpack Journalist
The parade was to start at exactly 11:11 am. Going back to 1918, the first Veterans Day was
held on the 11th month, on the 11th day and at the 11th hour. Years passed and finally in the 1970’s,
President Ford signed into law: Veterans Day, November 11th.
The sun to warm us was covered by Atlanta’s downtown tall
buildings. Close by to the viewing stand, coffee was provided to all, courtesy of Community Coffee.
A helicopter kept circling overhead. Picture this:
the Viewing Stand for this Georgia Veterans Day Parade was erected facing
upward a street. Looking up the street, we could see two ladder trucks from the
Atlanta Fire Department backing into the side streets at the top of the hill. Lots of red lights flashing kept our
attention. Then, both ladders began to go up with a Fireman at the top rung and it appeared that they had a “rope”
between them. No rope, it was our Nation’s Flag. As the ladders with the firemen
were raised to the sky – so did the American Flag go with them. In the distance we see our Nation’s Flag
proudly hanging over the street where parade route would come before the
viewing stand. What a perfect backdrop and a great start to a Veterans Day parade.
This year’s parade honored World War II Veterans. A bagpiper opened up the parade with “Amazing
Grace”. Military customs, including posting of colors and bringing in the Flag, were followed including a special rendering of the
Star Spangled Banner sung by a group of women dressed in 1940’s garb. The Viewing Stand, with Flags flying, stood
empty waiting on the arrival of special guests.
In the distance you could hear the sound of roaring engines. Coming down the short hill, side by side they
came. Motorcycles with flags flying off their back bumpers passed us by. These patriotic
riders were clothed in leathers and applique patriotic patches. The roar got louder as they turn the corner and
made their way past the Viewing Stand. Not too far behind came the parade banner, and then the Air National Guard “Band ofthe South!”
The Georgia Veterans Day Parade is the second largest in the
United States, and this day, the Grand Marshalls are two actors who were in Band of Brothers (James Madio and Ross
McCall), an HBO film about World War II. Today they each serve on the World War II Foundation Board
(www.wwiifoundation.org). They ride in sitting on the back of a Corvette, with the top down! As do, the other special guests representing
local Veteran associations, parade judges and the State of Georgia. Each special dignitary arrive riding on the back of the corvette, were recognized by
the Parade commentator, and then entered the Viewing Stand. Overhead the helicopter keeps hovering up
As the parade procession moves forward, we see marching in step, ROTC units from Atlanta area local high school.
We see many young faces, groomed and posed and in uniforms neatly
pressed. According to the announcer, these
young people are potential members of the US Military, and our future. Riverside Military Academy marched in their
full dress uniforms, with swords at their side and Helmet with plumes, and accompanied
by their marching band. (Note: they won the Prize for best marching ROTC
unit in the parade). There were multiple
floats and even a group of fun antique tractors! Closing the parade were riders on horseback,
and the Atlanta Police Motorcycle riders.
One of the most memorable moments came from the group of
t-shirt clad Coca Cola employees. Not in
full dress uniform, they wore screen printed t-shirts that supported the
Parade, and also Coca Cola. First as they
walked by, they handed out sample cans of COKE Zero! And, as the Coca Cola supply truck made the
turn, all of sudden the employees ran to the side facing the Viewing Stand,
lined up and saluted the entire Viewing Stand.
This show of respect was perhaps the most unexpected of all! To those not in the military it might have
been confusing. However, a T-shirt clad veterans’
salute is as meaningful and respectful, as a soldier in full dress. Once a soldier, always a soldier.
There were many tributes to World War II Veterans found on
banners and with special floats. Vietnam
Veterans have never been presented so well.
Members of the Georgia Vietnam Veteran’s Alliance walked forward in unison.
Each was dressed in navy blazers and ball caps and walking with a determined step. They
turned in front of us – stopped to salute the Viewing Stand. Their message was clear in their professional
support of the Vietnam Veteran. Check
out their website; www.gvva.com for their
support outreach programs.
Soon to deploy are members of the Georgia National Guard,
and they joined in, along with their CG Butterworth riding in a large terrain
vehicle. One of the best marching bands, came right out of the Georgia National Guard – 116th Band. As important, was that every segment of the military was represented in this parade – Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force.
One small group of Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan walked
behind a banner with the Www.IAVA.org logo. “Got your Back” and the logo their shirts printed so all
could see. This is “our” war today. This group of Veterans was such a contrast in age to those from World War II to the Vietnam era. This group assembled and their youthful look seemed out of place. After all this was a parade paying tribute to World War II Veterans? Right?. Was it
bringing to our attention in a celebratory parade that it is and has always been, our young men and women who fight our wars?
The Freedom Ball
Not all Veteran Day celebrations complete the day with a
Freedom Ball. Georgia did, and
well! As with all events like this there
is always the front table, the guest speakers and the plated food. Main difference with this Ball was that it
was held at the Georgia Aquarium. And,
gracing the walls of the ballroom were open windows into the tanks of aquarium
where the beautiful underwater creatures seemed to just swim by. It made for a soothing atmosphere. Add to that music from the 1940’s from Les
Still and his orchestra!
Here we also found Patriotism and World War II history on
display. The National Foundation of
Patriotism (foundationofpatriotism.org), and also the www.museumofpatriotism.org are organized to support and educate our citizens
on all facets of patriotism. Simple acts
such as the teaching our Pledge of Allegiance to our Nation’s Flag is offered
out to elementary schools. Shortly on
line they are launching a new interactive Virtual Museum. Currahee Military Museum, Home of the Real
“Band of Brothers”, is located in Toccoa, Georgia. Here they have collections of rare photos,
airborne history, maps, medals, and the uniforms from World War II and is
considered the real home of the “Band of Brothers”.
Band of Brothers, an HBO series from a book by Stephen
Ambrose, tells the story of a group of highly skilled elite marksmen and
paratroopers who trained in Georgia during World War II. They became known as the Easy Company and
were highly skilled and fearless, landing on D-Day and fighting at the Battle
of the Bulge. (www. http://www.hbo.com/band-of-brothers/index.html#/band-of-brothers/index.html) Two of the actors from this series were the
Grand Marshalls of the Parade and special guests at the Freedom Ball.
“We filmed right outside of London, and for the first month
or so, I did not know James’ name. We
were in our rolls. He was Sgt. Frank Perconte to me. This roll as CPL Joe Liebgott changed my
life. We all became brothers! Today, we continue as brothers.” Ross McCall, originally from Scotland,
shared with all us what it was like to become a part of this series.
James Madio joined in, confirming that as an actor in this
important film, “It changed my life!”
The series was shot mainly outside of London, and it would
take a month to complete one segment.
They spoke of the real life fox holes and a town recreated exactly as
one would have walked into back in the 1940’s.
Band of Brothers has over 2 million friends on Facebook, and the series
is still available to watch via HBO GO.
The day began with fresh air, sunshine and “Old Glory”
providing a spectacular backdrop over a parade route. It came to a close at the Freedom Ball with a
special thank you to corporate sponsors who helped make the day possible, and
keynotes by two young actors whose lives had been changed by simply “acting the
role of a soldier in the Easy Company”.
And the final thank you was sent out to all Veterans. We honor you and thank you.
Closing commentary: Colt (Manufacturer of firearms) was the main
sponsor for this event. Many think of
Colt as “only” a firearms company. However, within the ranks at Colt are people
who have served in the military and provide significant support in many other
ways. A Backpack Journalist once had an
experience with Colt’s booth staff at a major event. We had a young man in a wheel chair, with
limited use of his arms as well.
However, this young man had always dreamed of touching and holding a
gun, pulling the trigger on a gun.
Colt’s booth staff held the gun/rifle for him and helped this young man
touch and feel the firearm and then pulling the trigger. The smile on this young man’s face will
always be remembered. As we left the
Colt booth, the staff member leaned down and placed a COIN in this young man’s
hand and closed his fingers around the coin.