by Mary Elliott
Communications and Marketing Director
This Veterans Day was special for me. Although I'm not a veteran of military service, I have always had admiration and respect for those who have put their lives in harm's way to serve our country. Being new to my job with the City and to Gastonia, I wanted to take photos of our Veterans Day Parade and include them in this article. But the task turned out to be more than just an assignment for Employee Focus.
Veterans Day originated as Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919, marking the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans – living or dead – but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.
When I arrived at City Hall to park my car on Nov. 11, 2019, I wasn't sure if the parade was about to start or not, so I decided to just get a few photos and be on my way. Because I didn't see many people on S. South Street, I thought the parade would be short. But turning the corner onto Main Avenue, I was surprised to see how many men, women and children were lined along the street – on both sides – waiting for the parade to start! My mission quickly changed and I decided to see how many veterans I could find and how many photos I could take to document our parade that day.
I walked down Main Avenue from South Street to Broad and, along the way, I saw many veterans wearing jackets, shirts and hats or carrying signs advertising their tours of duty. I didn't want to miss the start of the parade, so I walked quickly, saying "Thank you for your service," to each veteran I saw in the crowd.
The response was the same from each person – a nod or acknowledgement of pride and honor to have served.
I had never attended a parade on Veterans Day and didn't know what to expect. When I finally got to Broad Street it seemed like a sea of people were lined up, ready to begin the parade. There were school bands, junior ROTC cadets, color guards, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts – all happy to say "thank you" to our veterans. I took lots of pictures of the people who came out on a day that featured the most perfect weather.
The parade featured two World War II veterans in a red car, veterans from the American Legion, veterans who work for the City of Gastonia, veterans wearing insignia indicating where they had served, veterans wearing medals including the Purple Heart. The veterans in every photo I took exuded a sense of pride and honor.
Even during the solemn ceremony at the American Military Museum on Second Avenue, there was a feeling of camaraderie as each veteran held their salute while taps was played by a bugler.
Veterans Day in Gastonia was special for me this year because I had the opportunity to join others in showing our veterans how much we appreciate their service to our country. Being new to the City, it was even more special to have my husband with me, a retired Army veteran. So, that makes me a proud Army wife. We'll be at the Veterans Day Parade next year and we hope you'll join us!