Thousands of spectators lined several streets and part of the Winchester Downtown Square on Sunday afternoon to honor America’s veterans while enjoying the 2019 Veterans Day Parade.
Sponsored by the local American Legion Post 44 in Winchester, the parade began promptly at 2 p.m. and featured no less than six marching bands, including the Tennessee National Guard’s 129th Army Band, 19 floats and 135 decorated vehicles from area schools, civic organizations, and veterans’ groups.
This year’s grand marshal was Bill Robinson, a US Air Force veteran who was held as a prisoner of war during Vietnam.
Robinson’s vehicle was flanked by four soldiers in fatigues who walked with his vehicle as an honor guard.
Dozens of red, white, and blue-themed floats and decorated vehicles participated in the procession, which began at the old Food Lion parking lot, proceeded around the north and west side of the Downtown Square in Winchester and finally traversed a section of First Avenue Northwest before ending on North Vine Street near Moore-Cortner Funeral Home.
A clear blue sky and mild autumn weather added to the event’s ambiance as locals and visitors alike waved small American flags and children scooped up candies which were thrown from passing floats and vehicles.
Escorted by two Winchester Police Department motorcycle officers, this year’s parade began with three different color guards: The Tennessee State Color Guard, the MTSU Army ROTC Color Guard, and the Coffee County Central High School Air Force Junior ROTC Color Guard.
The famed Tennessee National Guard 129th Army Band immediately followed and marched and performed with precision.
Next in the procession were a series of vintage jeeps, which were provided by the Sam H. Werner Military Museum in Monteagle.
First came Arnold Air Force Base Commander Col. Jeffrey Geraghty, who manned a vintage WWII-era Army Jeep.
State Rep. Iris Rudder, R-Winchester, rode in a white vintage jeep that was driven by James Collins, and Winchester Mayor Terry Harrell and Uncle Sam himself completed the procession of vintage military vehicles.
Franklin County native Todd Boswell marched in traditional Scottish piper regalia and played the bagpipes.
In addition to the 129th Army Band, spectators were treated to marching performances by bands from Franklin County High School, Huntland School, Coffee County Central High School, North Middle School, and South Middle School.
In addition to the area marching bands, Decherd and Cowan Elementary School students represented their schools as they rode in decorated vehicles and floats in the procession.
The FCHS Bass Team rode in a decorated fishing boat while the South Middle School Choir touched the hearts of several veterans in the crowd by singing patriotic songs as they passed in the procession.
U.S. veterans representing wars and conflicts ranging from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, both Iraq wars and the current conflict in Afghanistan were honored during the parade as Franklin County and area veterans manned vehicles and floats throughout the procession.
Two Veterans of Foreign Wars posts were represented, including Franklin County Post 1893 and Manchester Post 1094.
A float with FCHS student and staff veterans was also in the procession, as was a large military vehicle manned by Franklin County first responder veterans.
A U.S. Veterans Alliance group from Ashland City sent 12 of its members in antique cars, and the classic vehicles were a hit with automotive enthusiasts in the crowd.
American Legion Post 44 Commander Ray Cobb was quick to praise all the organizers, helpers, veterans and participants in this year’s successful parade, and was hopeful for an even bigger parade next year.
“I want to thank (City Administrator) Beth Rhoton and the City of Winchester for all the work regarding the pre-parade organizing,” Cobb said. “I also want to thank Franklin County Sheriff Tim Fuller and everyone involved in escorting all of our veterans who participated in the parade.
“I also wanted to thank the AM Rotary Club, the Franklin County Kiwanis Club, and especially Director of Schools Stanley Bean for his support with the parade and for keeping American patriotism alive in our schools. I’m hopeful that next year’s parade will be even bigger.”