At the intersection of Robeson and Hay streets, the confluence of participating organizations in the Nov. 10 Veterans Day parade showed little dissuasion due to the cold morning. The street heading toward the reviewing stand at the United Methodist Church was lined with pedestrians holding signs reading, “Thank you!”
“It’s great to support veterans of the past,” said Sgt. 1st Class Frank Cole of the 82nd Airborne Division Band — the first unit to march down Hay Street. The band led the parade through the historic downtown district.
Thirty-four band members warmed up prior to the 10 a.m. start to the parade. Troops of the 82nd with fixed bayonets stood nearby, barricades blocked the intersection and police cars were at the perimeters.
“This is a big event for us,” Cole continued. The parade marked his first Veterans Day parade with the 82nd — Cole having been with them for a year. Across from the band, antique cars, Air Force JROTC cadets and high school color guards congregated in preparation for their hour-long march.
At the reviewing stand, Don Talbot, a parade manager, spoke to the crowd as he introduced the master of ceremonies: Maj. Bruce Daws of the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry, the oldest continuous southern military unit in the country. Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin joined them at the stand, all rising with the crowd as two invocations were offered and the National Anthem sung in opening the parade. The microphone died out during the latter, and the crowd took over en masse.
Field artillery units, veterans associations, ROTC and JROTC units, bands and no fewer than 12 schools and universities participated in the parade: waving, throwing out candy and displaying unit banners to the crowd.
For some, like veteran James Campbell, who spent 13 years at Fort Bragg with the 530th Supply and Services Battalion, the parade is a welcomed yearly tradition.
“I never miss it,” he said.
As a veteran, the public display “means a lot,” with his favorite part of the parade being “the flyover, most of all.” Motorcyclists from Rolling Thunder took up the rear of the parade formation, succeeded by reenactors from the Sons of Confederate Veterans in their gray uniforms and pounding a snare drum to keep time.
By 11 a.m., the parade had moved past the Sherman Marker and the tolling bell tower of the church. The crowd dispersed, pedestrians followed the rat-tat-tat of the drums or headed toward the Airborne and Special Operations Museum to witness the inaugural Hometown Hero award ceremony in a continuation of the Veterans Day celebrations.