The Albany area has been the site of a military base from every major branch of the service. There is still a Marine base that has been here since 1953. If you go to other cities with a base nearby, Veterans Day parades and events are a big thing. They even have a parade in Panama City, offer discounts during the weekend, not only through Applebees and Golden Corral, but other local establishments that offer meals and free car washes.
The Broad Street bridge, that is about to be torn down and rebuilt, was dedicated to World War I Dougherty County veterans in 1920 and will be rebuilt and dedicated again to those who have served since. I have heard that many years ago there used to be a major parade commemorating Veterans Day. Schools, bands and veteran’s groups used to participate. It must not have lasted very long, because I have lived here for 28 years and can’t remember one. There are an abundance of veterans in the area and many of our county and city officials are veterans, so why can’t Albany put forth the effort to recognize the sacrifices made by their own veteran residents by having a formal parade. For the past four years there has been a ceremony at the Civic Center Veterans Park and a ride following on Veterans Day weekend. That has been through the efforts of a few volunteers and a limited amount of sponsors.
When we lost a major sponsor last year for this event, I called together a meeting of representatives from military organizations in the area. A Veterans Coalition was formed to pass info among the VFW, both American Legion Posts, Marine Corps League, Fleet Reserve, Vietnam Vets and Air Force Sergeants Association.
This Veterans Coalition is also trying to keep the Veterans Day weekend “Salute to Veterans” going and we hope to have a formal parade in the future. Each year, we decide who the featured organization will be. Last year the ride ended at the VFW. This year it will be at American Legion Post 30. We did retain a major sponsor, Albany Budweiser Beverage, who, without their support, the Veterans Day Weekend event would be difficult. After this event, our next project will be organizing a ceremony for the commissioning and de-commissioning of the Broad Street Bridge.
On Saturday, a “Salute to Veterans” ceremony featuring the U.S. Marine Corps Band and Color Guard will start at the Civic Center Veterans Park Amphitheatre at 10 a.m. After the ceremony, there will be an escorted parade of vehicles to the American Legion Post 30 on Gillionville Road, where there will be a free entry car show, military static displays, Guilty Pleasures band, food, refreshments and silent auction to raise money for Albany’s Lily Pad, an advocate center for abused children.
Please support our vets by coming out for the ceremony and decorate your vehicle with patriotic themes for the ride. If you have a car you want to enter in the free show, please come. The more people we have that support this event, the better chance we will have in getting more local support for a formal parade like we used to have, to honor those who have served and currently serving.
Our troops are supposedly being pulled from Iraq and reducing them in Afghanistan. If you look back at the history of our military, once war is over, the troops are scaled down and the military services tend to be forgotten. As long as there are an abundance of veterans in the Albany area, they should not be forgotten and it will be up to us in helping the public to remember, by continuing a Veterans Day program.
My welcome return to the U.S. after serving in Southeast Asia (1967-69) at the Philadelphia airport in my uniform was to be spat upon and called names. I will always remember that. That is one reason I am a strong advocate for our military personnel and you will usually find me involved in this aspect. There is truth in the adage of “Freedom isn’t Free,” because, “All gave some and some gave all.”
Paul B. Murray, “Salute to Veterans” event and Veterans Coalition coordinator, is vice commander, Albany VFW Post 2785.