Local veterans' sacrifices to be honored with parade and ceremony

From left, Haleyville Mayor and Veteran Ken Sunseri; Mark Wakefield, vice commander of American Legion Post 33 and Post 33 Adjutant Mickey Holdbrooks at the Haleyville War Memorial.

HALEYVILLE     -  Veterans are concerned that the public’s attendance at such city parades as homecoming and Christmas seems to be much larger than those lining the downtown streets for the annual Veterans parade and program each year.
Members of the American Legion Post 33 are urging a good participation in the veterans parade which will be held on the actual Veteran’s Day holiday Saturday, Nov. 11, at the veteran’s monuments located in front of CVS Pharmacy, at the corner of Highway 13 and 20th Street.
Line-up for the parade will begin at 9 a.m. at Haleyville Elementary School.
During the line-up, the public is urged to begin gathering near the monuments in preparation for the laying of the wreath ceremony at 9:45 a.m. by Marine Vietnam Veteran Donald Benson.
This will be followed by special remarks by  Mike Smith, commander of American Legion Post 33 and District 14 Commander.
Prayer will be led by Adam Hogan, youth minister at Waldrop Free Will Baptist Church.  
Taps will also be played on trumpet to conclude the ceremony, organizers said.
The parade will begin at 10 a.m. from the school, will pick up participating high school bands at the parking area behind First Baptist Church, across from CVS, then travel through the downtown area.

Smith stressed that honor and respect for veterans seem to be fading.
“The 11th month, the 11th day, the 11th hour should be a special time to all Americans, not just to the veterans that are honored,” Smith pointed out.
“We gather on  this date to honor those who have served, but it seems that the interest of our nation in the importance of this date is fading,” Smith further stated.
Smith cited that veterans of the first two World wars as well as the Korean War were saluted for their service.
“The veterans of Vietnam were scorned  by much of the nation, even though their sacrifices were just as great,” Smith pointed out.
Smith hopes that is not becoming true for veterans as a whole today.
“It seems to be fading again,” Smith said. “Veterans should be honored each day for their sacrifice they have made. Many still suffer from the wounds of war, both physically and mentally.”
Smith added family members of veterans should never be overlooked, because they too have suffered.
Legion Post 33 officials are urging a large parade that will focus on veterans, all military groups and organizations,  in vehicles or floats, Boy Scouts, as well as churches, civic organizations, businesses, antique vehicles--with the exception of politicians, according to organizers.
“This is really a parade to honor veterans, not for a political forum,” pointed out Haleyville Mayor Ken Sunseri, who is a Vietnam veteran 1967-1968, as First Infantry Division Platoon Leader.
“History shows that all of the things that have taken place have involved the veterans and our military who protect our citizens from the problems we have had with terrorism, and abuse and all these other things,” Mayor Sunseri stressed.
“Right now, we’re in a terrible time with the state of Israel,” Sunseri added, “and the Palestinians, and that could be a major war for us.
“It’s just a time of unrest,” the mayor continued.
Sunseri encourages the public to come out, participate in the parade and line the streets in support of the veterans in the parade.
“How soon we forget,” Sunseri pointed out.
“It’s important that we honor those people who have served our country,” he stressed. “We have Memorial Day where we have a day we honor those individuals who lost their life, who gave the great sacrifice.
“And, again, it’s important we recognize the things people have done to protect our country and our citizen and to honor their families for the problems they have encountered, while their individual is away or overseas and separated from their family,” Sunseri continued.
After the parade and program, a lunch will be provided to all veterans and their families at 11:30 a.m. by Post 33 Legion Auxiliary at the American Legion Hall.
Mickey Holdbrooks, adjutant of American Legion Post 33, emphasized, “If we don’t honor our veterans, we could lose this freedom, because freedom is not free.
“Freedom,” he added, “is only one generation away from being lost.”
Mark Wakefield, vice commander of American Legion Post 33, noted it was important to honor those who not only fought for but paid the ultimate price to defend the nation’s freedoms.
“Veterans Day is for all that served,” Wakefield pointed out. “If you lose that, then you lose everything.”
The trend is again seemingly on  downward spiral, according to Wakefield.
“I’m afraid it’s going to take another 9/11ish episode for it to get back,” Wakefield pointed out.
“We’ve opened out borders, and no telling how many terrorists have come across and are waiting for some type of sign to do what they do,” Wakefield pointed out.
“I think the public needs to come out and show support for a group of  people who are about just one percent of the population of the country, that serve,  to honor them and say, ‘I appreciate what you do.’”
At the lunch honoring veterans at the American Legion,  a Henry Golden Boy 22 lever action rifle will be given away.
Currently, donations of $20 are being accepted toward a chance to win the rifle, Holdbrooks stated.  All proceeds will benefit the American Legion, Holdbrooks emphasized.
“There will only be 100 tickets sold,” Holdbrooks noted.
Tickets can be purchased from Smith or Holdbrooks, or by calling 205-269-0750.

See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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