Despite the cold, Bristolians gathered in downtown Saturday to honor local veterans with a parade and ceremony.
The day started with a light layer of frost on the ground, but hundreds of people from Tennessee and Virginia gathered along Bob Morrison Boulevard, State Street and Lee Street for the annual parade. Led by police cruisers from both sides of the state line, the parade included numerous representatives from local veterans groups, first-responders, youth organizations, government officials and the Virginia High School marching band.
A large contingent of students from the Sullivan South High School ROTC, directed by retired Air Force Master Sgt. Don Shawver, marched at the beginning of the parade, carrying flags and banners through downtown. Shawver said he enjoyed the parade and looks forward to continuing in the future.
Local Boy Scouts from various groups carried a giant American flag through downtown. At the end, near Cumberland Square Park, the scouts exclaimed: “Thank you, veterans.”
After the parade, a number of people, including several veterans, met at the park for a ceremony to honor all veterans.
Navy veteran Harvey Anderson served as the emcee Saturday before noon. Anderson described a veteran as anyone in a uniform who has served the country, including veterans from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Public Health Service.
Anderson added that a veteran is anyone who has served in war or peace. A person did not have to serve in combat or overseas in order to be recognized as a veteran, he said.
Local city council members spoke briefly during the service, thanking veterans.
Bristol Tennessee Vice Mayor Mahlon Luttrell told the crowd that he too once wore a military uniform in the service, and it was important for him to honor other veterans.
Lea Powers, a Bristol Tennessee councilwoman, noted that her father served in the military and Bristol Virginia Mayor Neal Osborne spoke about his father and grandfather, who both served.
Richard Ball, longtime parade chairman and a retired Air Force veteran, nodded his head in appreciation as speakers at Cumberland Square park thanked him for his service to the community. For years, Ball has organized the Veterans Day parade and ceremony.
Anderson noted that a veterans service will be held today at 11 a.m. at Victory Baptist Church off Interstate 81 in Bristol, Virginia. Veterans and one guest each will get a free meal, he said.