By Christopher Smith
While a large crowd gathered on the Hamilton Street median to wave flags and cheer on the Veterans Day Parade, Arnold Adams was quiet.
Adams, who drove from Hixson, Tenn., to spend the day with family, said Veterans Day is “always bittersweet.”
“My father served in the Korean War (as a pilot) and I fought in the Army during Vietnam,” Adams said. “I didn’t see as much of the war as other guys did, but it was still something I carry. I always try to come to something on Veterans Day just to remind myself how important our armed forces are. We’re all free because of them.”
Freedom is also why Iliana Hernandez of Chatsworth came to the parade.
“I just really want to thank them all (the veterans),” Hernandez said. “It really gets me thinking. Most people are nice around here, but sometimes someone will see my (Hispanic) heritage and give me a look or say something that makes me feel like I’m not part of this community. You know, I’m sort of glad they can do that. I’m glad we can live in a country where everyone can voice their beliefs, even if I really disagree with it.”
The freedom to disagree is important, said Adams.
“Some people are upset about it (the election) and others aren’t,” he said, “It’s still an election. It’s still freedom. We (America) disagree on a lot of things, but at least we can disagree without worrying about it. I’m glad we can argue about this president or that president and then go out and have a parade with all these wonderful bands.”
Marching bands from Coahulla Creek, Dalton, Murray County, North Murray, Northwest Whitfield and Southeast Whitfield high schools could be seen and heard throughout downtown.
“We’re having a great time listening to them,” said Jennifer Holly, whose great-uncle, Tom Phipps, was honored at the parade as the veteran of the year for his service in the Korean War. “We came out today to see him and also because we love parades.”
Phipps was a paratrooper in the 111st Airborne who would “do anything for anyone,” said Larry Wells, who was stationed with the Army in Germany during the Vietnam War.
“He’s my wife’s uncle and a great man,” he said. “He’s very active in the American Legion, goes to all the reunions, or parades like this one.”
George Lo Greco, parade director, said Phipps was honored as the veteran of the year because “he’s still more active then most young people.”
“He always takes veterans up to clinics in Knoxville, to Murfreesboro, to Atlanta, to Rome,” Lo Greco said. “He doesn’t even mind the hard-mouth, rough-speaking veterans. He is a dedicated servant. If something needs to get done, Tom does it. We’re 20 years late in honoring him because he really has been hard working for a long time.”
Lo Greco said Phipps was honored in June at the American Legion state convention in Duluth as the state veteran of the year.
“Overall, I think the parade was a success,” Randy Cantrell, Lisa’s husband and photographer for the parade, said. “They did a good job. Hopefully it will grow and grow and get better each year. I know they’ve worked hard on it.”