(Photos by Kelly Kultys/Southside Daily)
VIRGINIA BEACH – Thousands of people, cars, tanks, motorcycles and one Uncle Sam on a unicycle poured down 19th street Wednesday as a part of the annual Tidewater Veterans Day parade.
George Olsen, who served in the Navy from 1962 to 1983 and is now the historian for American Legion Post 35, called it a day of remembrance.
“I think celebrating the veterans and the things that they have done is important — not just for us — but for some of these people, these youngsters especially. They need to know what these people have done,” Olsen said.
The parade’s participants included people of all ages and backgrounds, including active duty military, veterans, high school bands, ROTC programs, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, community groups and members of organizations like Wounded Warriors and the Knights of Columbus.
Eleanor Kearns, who served as an aviation machinist 3rd class during World War II, was one of the grand marshals. She said she was especially proud to represent the women who served during WWII. She asked the audience to remember veterans throughout the year, not just on Veterans Day.
“Let us never forget this long line of veterans in our prayers,” she said.
Mayor Will Sessoms echoed Kearns’ thoughts and said he wanted to ensure all veterans in Virginia Beach have homes. He said 157 formerly homeless local veterans have found homes or are on their way to having somewhere to live, thanks to efforts locally and nationally to end veteran homelessness.
Olsen said the day was about remembering those who performed heroic acts when their country needed them.
“These people in the military who have served — they are not the ‘sunshine patriots,’ ” Olsen said. “They are the people who are there regardless of whether it’s a nice day or all hell is breaking loose.”