ROCKINGHAM — At the 11th hour, on the 11th day of this 11th month, Richmond County residents will begin their daylong celebration of the nation’s veterans with a wreath-laying and a meal.
The public celebration will end mid-afternoon, as the last floats and convertible-riding veterans course past flag-waving parade-goers downtown. The parade is the second to be organized after a nearly two-decade lapse.
“Last year, I just said, ‘Show up, and we’ll figure it out,’” parade organizer Robin Roberts said Thursday. This year, Roberts has lined up helpers from fellow members of the VFW Post 4203 Auxiliary, as well as many more parade units.
Last year’s parade was in the morning. This year’s will be at 3 p.m., to accommodate the VFW’s annual Veterans Day celebration, which always occurs at 11 a.m. the Saturday nearest Veterans Day.
The 11 a.m. celebration will include representatives from American Legion posts 147 and 49, of Rockingham and Hamlet, respectively; AMVETS post 316; Marine Detachment 1252; the Purple Heart Association; and the Richmond County chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America.
It will take place at VFW Memorial Park, next to the VFW Post, at 106 Old River Road, Rockingham, and include displaying of the colors by the Richmond Senior High School JROTC color guard and the playing of “Taps,” singing of the national anthem by Bronze Star recipient Ronald Wallace, and a ceremonial flag-folding and wreath-laying.
Guest speaker will be Brent Hawkins, a 2002 RSHS graduate and assistant professor at Clemson University who has completed a series of studies investigating the physical and psychological barriers for soldiers coming home from war.
A free meal will follow.
Vets Day parade
Downtown will be alive with the waving of 1,500 American flags, donated by former Rockingham mayor and state Sen. Gene McLaurin. Businesses around Harrington Square also have promised to display Old Glory.
At 1 p.m., floats, band members and gents in their mothballed military uniforms will gather on Caroline Street downtown.
Opening ceremonies will begin at 3 p.m. and include the singing of the national anthem, an address by County Commission Chair Kenneth Robinette, a 21-gun salute, and the displaying of the colors and playing of “Taps” by the high school JROTC unit.
After opening ceremonies, participants will ride or march from the new county courthouse on Franklin Street, east toward Leath Memorial Library, where they will hang a left toward Washington Street and on to Harrington Square.
Parade grand marshal will be Clyde Davidson Jr., a World War II veteran who served in the European theater from 1943 to 1946.
The parade will include floats for each war in which America has fought, from World War I to Iraq and Afghanistan, Roberts said. Police and sheriff’s officers, and fire and rescue personnel will participate, as will Boy, Girl and Cub Scouts; the high school marching band and cheerleaders; veterans’ organizations; and elected officials.
The parade will not feature any horses — good news for those walking the route. Roberts was unsure whether members of the N.C. National Guard would be able to participate because they are on standby for service in Puerto Rico.
Noon to 5 p.m. “A Celebration of Veterans and Their Art” will offer works “by veterans, for veterans,” Roberts said. It will be at the Richmond County Arts Council, 123 E. Washington St., Rockingham.
1-3 p.m. Chris Herring and Roger Campbell will play guitar and mandolin music at the veterans’ art exhibit.
8-11 p.m. The Unsung, a rock and variety band, will play at VFW Post 4203.
Anyone desiring more information about the afternoon’s events — or participating in the parade — may contact Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673.