The streets of Hartselle snapped to attention for a couple of hours on Friday, Nov. 14, as a crowd of onlookers estimated at 1,000 lined Railroad and Main Streets to celebrate Veterans Day. They watched and listened as bands played patriotic music, applauded veterans, listened to speeches and viewed a mile-long parade.
“We wanted this to be for all veterans,” said Robert Dotson, a retired Army warrant officer who served as emcee. “But it is especially for all those veterans who served in Korea and Vietnam. It is the welcome home they never got.”
In keeping with his line of thought, the Veterans Day Parade Committee, of which Dotson served as co-chair, chose three recent-era veterans to ride in the parade as grand co-marshals. They Were Sue Nelson, Korea; George Hearring, Vietnam; and Mark Morgan Afghanistan.
The patriotic ceremony was staged in front of The Depot. It featured the posting of colors by an Army ROTC unit from UNA, the playing of taps, a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and the playing of the National Anthem by Hartselle High School’s Marching Band.
States Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, an Air Force veteran, and Hartselle Utilities General Manager Ferrell Vest, a retired Army colonel, were speakers.
Henry called attention to the massive debt incurred by the federal government and pointed out that it is small in comparison to the debt the nation owes its veterans for the sacrifices they have made and are continuing to make.
“War is ugly but it is not the worst thing there is,” Henry pointed out. “The person who has nothing for which to fight is a miserable creature. The only way he can remain free is through the sacrifices made by men and women other than himself.”
“Our nation has 23 million veterans,” he added. “Let us not forget the debt we own them”
Vest opened his speech by making reference to Armistice Day of 1918, which was later changed to Veterans Day. He also pointed out that Railroad Street was lined with family and friends who cheered for the return of World War I veterans on the first Armistice Day.
Vest shared an American ambassador’s experience he had while serving in Bosnia. He said he was a lone American soldier in an advance detachment sent to Bosnia. While communicating with Bosnian officials he had a young man come up and point to the American fag on his shoulder and ask “When are they coming?”
“I didn’t fully realize what he meant then but I did later when our troops arrived,” Vest stated. “He was identifying the American Flag as a symbol of hope for his people.”
A street parade led by the Hartselle High Marching Band brought the event to a successful climax. Some veterans rode in a trailer while many others marched behind. Band music was also provided by Danville and Falkville High School bands.