HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - The big Veterans Parade was cancelled Monday in Huntsville because of the cold, wet weather, but that didn’t stop the community from honoring those who’ve served in special ways!
There was a full house at the Roundhouse in downtown Huntsville to pay tribute to the men and women who have served our country.
“We made the difficult decision to cancel the parade. I think it was the right decision now that we’re out here. We didn’t want to cancel the breakfast,” said Max Bennett, chairman of the 2018 Huntsville/Madison County Veterans Week Activities.
Gold Star families, those who've lost a loved one on active duty, were recognized, as were Blue Star families, those who have someone actively serving in the military.
They also acknowledged a group of visiting wounded veterans, who have been taking part in different events in the Tennessee Valley for Veterans Week. Around two dozen guests were brought to Huntsville by the Semper Fi Community Task Force to show appreciation for them since many of them were in the hospital when their units were welcomed back home from deployments.
The crowd also honored this year’s inductees into the Madison County Hall of Heroes and those on the Purple Heart Honor Roll. The weather may have halted the parade but it certainly didn’t take away from the meaning of Veterans Day and how the Huntsville area honors its heroes.
“The purpose is to recognize our veterans, our veterans and their families. Nobody does it better than this community. They come out in full support. They spend a week taking care of wounded warriors and reflecting on all of the veterans' sacrifices. They do it with great sincerity and I'm so proud to be a part of this community,” said General Gus Perna, commanding general of the Army Materiel Command on Redstone Arsenal.
With her daughter in arms, the wife of 1st Lt. David Albandoz accepted a shadow box display case with a Gold Star inside as they took the stage.
Albandoz was killed in May when the C-130 he was co-piloting crashed outside Savannah, Georgia. There a huge show of support when his body was brought back to Madison for his funeral service, hundreds lining the streets.
“We definitely appreciate everything the military has done to assist us. We do feel like we have a family here. It’s not only the military but also the community that has come together from the very first moment we brought him home. We remember how people lined the streets for that. It’s a touching moment and we certainly appreciate all of it,” his wife, Nicoleta, stated.
One group of veterans still walked the parade route in honor of those that served in all kinds of weather. “We’re just having our own parade. They canceled the official one, but some of us thought they we had been there, done that and worse so we're just going to do the two-mile loop and have a good time,” said Ty Oswald, founder of Bearded Warriors, a veterans support organization.
Oswald said that many in the group had dealt with and experienced much worse when they were deployed so they felt it was important to take part in the event to show their patriotism.
“All of us here have served ourselves or support those who have served so one rainy day for about an hour is not too much to ask of us,” he added.
This year, the world is commemorating 100 years since the end of World War I “They signed the armistice 100 years ago to end World War I. It was the great war, the war to end all wars and people said there was no way it could ever happen again and then boom, within just a few decades, it happened all over again. And it continues to happen again and again because the world is never short on tyrants, but it's always short of people who will fight for liberty,” Bennett explained.
The parade will not be rescheduled, Bennett added. He applied for the permit several months ago and it’s not possible to have it another time. But the weather didn't get in the way of the Huntsville community doing all they could to shine a spotlight on our veterans.
“You can go near Army installations like Fort Campbell and Fort Drum and not see the outpouring of love and support for veterans and the Armed Forces like you see here in Huntsville. We have the city, Redstone Arsenal and the veteran’s community who come together,” Bennett said. “It's all about remembering the veterans and what they've done for us. Fewer and fewer people are in the military which means you can go your whole life and never meet someone who has been in the military.”
General Perna recognized that Veteran’s Day honors several generations of heroes.
“Today is a representation of all the veterans from all of our wars. I would note that for the first time in our history in a long time, the youngest veterans are represented today. Seventeen years of war have brought a new class of veterans up and it is just powerful that we are recognizing them and our senior veterans simultaneously,” he stated.