By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
WELCH — Click here for video of the Welch Veterans Day Parade
Click here for video of the Princeton Veterans Day Parade
Veterans of all wars and services were cheered Monday as patriotic music played and ceremonies were hosted across the region to honor the sacrifices they made to protect their country.
Veterans, their families, and other residents filled the streets of Welch, Princeton, Tazewell, Va., and other municipalities to witness Veterans Day parades featuring local veterans organizations, marching bands, civic organizations and more. In Welch, the city was hosting its 94th annual Veterans Day Parade.
Fire engines led the parade through downtown Welch as people lined both sides of the streets. For the many veterans watching the parade, it felt good to see how many people cared about them.
“I just can’t put it into words,” Vietnam War veteran Clarence Powell, 74, said of his feelings as the parade started. “It’s something we all stood for. We all stood for the flag, God and our country.”
Jesse McPeake of Kimball, one of West Virginia’s most highly decorated Vietnam War veterans, said honoring the people who served their country is important.
“If it wasn’t for the veterans, we wouldn’t be here, most likely,” he said as members of the McDowell 4-H sang “God Bless the USA.”
Children smiled and stared with wide eyes as the fire trucks and National Guard humvees and trucks passed them. The parade is a tradition for many area families.
Stanley Pryor, 59, of Northfork, who served both in the Army and Marines, watched as the downtown filled with parade participants and onlookers.
“This is a great deal to see this many people here,” Pryor said with a smile. “It feels good.”
Pryor’s sister, Gladine White of Northfork said seeing the Welch Veterans Parade was a family tradition.
“My grandfather used to come to this parade,” she said. The late Landon Pigeriam, a veteran of World War I, passed away 50 years ago. “I just know my granddaddy is looking down here. He loved the Veterans Day Parade. I love it, I love it!”
Two sisters, Patty St. Clair and Linda St. Clair Pence, both of Myrtle Beach, S.C., came back to Welch for the parade. Their father, the late A.M. “Tinker” St. Clair, worked for the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., in Washington D.C.
“Well, in their hearts, they’re still part of this town,” Linda Pence said. “This is a great town. There will be a parade as long as there is a town here.”
World War II veterans Henry Paul, Clyde Turner, Ed Shepherd, Ollie Dobb Adair, Harold Herrons and Clarence McBride were honored with floats of their own. Trailed by a battleship float, USS Welch, by McBride Electric, the float won the Best of Parade Award. A 1974 Ford owned by Josh McPeake won the Antique Car Award, and the Civic Float Award was presented to the Welch Kiwanis.
The 2013 grand marshal, Brig. Gen. Russell Crane, West Virginia National Guard, spoke of the sacrifices made by veterans throughout American history.
From the very birth of this great nation, brave men and women have answered the call to stand ready to defend this great country, a country that offers freedoms unmatched throughout the world. Today we honor all who raised their hand and swore to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies for almost two and a half centuries,” Russell said.
Many battles have not been fought because enemies turn away in fear from Coast Guard cutters, Navy ships, Air Force formations, Army soldiers and Marines on the ground, he said. Russell told the audience about Capt. William D. Swenson of the U.S. Army, a recent recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Swenson was task force commander in Afghanistan in 2009. He spoke of the valor Swenson displayed for more than six hours after his team was attacked by more than 60 enemy fighters, ignoring enemy calls to surrender and, with complete disregard for his own safety, coordinating support for wounded soldiers.
“Whether in times of war or times of peace, our nation’s finest have answered, fully knowing the risk and responsibilities for such selfless acts,” Russell said.
“I don’t think you could have been any place in the world where you saw more patriotism and love for our veterans than what you saw here this morning,” said Mayor Reba Honaker of Welch. “We thank God and our veterans that we have the liberty in Welch to honor our veterans.”
Veterans Day parades were conducted in Princeton, Tazewell, Va., and other localities across the region. People lined Mercer Street in Princeton to see the parade of veterans units, local marching bands and dignitaries as it went through the downtown to reach the Memorial Building near the Mercer County Courthouse. The Those Who Served War Museum, featuring collections of local war relics and memories to local service people, is housed at the Memorial Building.
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., was scheduled to speak at Veterans Day ceremonies in Kimball and Matewan. He said in a press release Monday that he would continue to seek ways to address “the disgraceful backlog of disability claims and ensure our veterans’ benefits are not needlessly help up by a lengthy bureaucratic process.”
Families remembered loved ones now gone as a salute was fired and “Taps” was solemnly played as the Veterans Day Parade in Welch concluded. Many members of the public put hands to their hearts and others saluted as many sacrifices were honored and remembered.
— Contact Greg Jordan at email@example.com