PRINCETON — Marching bands, floats, classic cars and more filled downtown Princeton as the annual Veterans Day Parade proceeded down Mercer Street to celebrate the men and women who served their country.
Veterans wearing ball caps and jackets bearing words such as Vietnam Veterans, World War II, Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force and were among the crowds lining Mercer Street or joining in the parade. Vietnam veteran Tommy Ellison of Green Valley served in the Navy in 1968 and 1969.
“I got choppered out when my dad died and went back in ‘69,” he recalled. “I was in the Navy on a destroyer providing gunfire support.”
Veterans watching Monday’s parade were grateful to see the public support for veterans that it demonstrated.
“I think it’s really great,” Ellison said. “Really, the reception we came back to, we didn’t come back to an appreciative country, but I know that’s turned around. It really has. The country is behind the military. Vietnam was very divisive. We may have a divided country now, but we all support the military.”
Down the street, Navy veteran Benjamin D. Lovell of Stovall Ridge remembered his job as a torpedo man chief. Though retired, he knew that he could still perform a chief’s duties.
“I could still make them ready,” Lovell said. The parade was a good moment for him, too.
“It’s great. I’m proud to see it and I’m proud to see them do something for veterans here in Princeton,” he stated.
Vietnam veteran Charles Boyd of Green Valley served between 1966 and 67. He watched as marching bands went down the street.
“Words really can’t describe it,” Boyd said of his feelings. “It’s a great honor for us and for our families, too, and friends, and those wounded and died in action.”
“Oh, it’s awesome,” Navy veteran Scott Butcher of Bluefield added. “It makes you proud of the country and the vets.”
Local veterans participated in the parade, too. Reese Moore of the U.S. Air Force was the 2019 Grand Marshal. Many of the veterans in the parade rode on floats and in classic cars, but World War II veteran Jake Hatcher of Princeton, now 102, put on his Uncle Sam outfit and walked the parade route while handing out candy to children. Many of the kids and more than a few adults asked to be photographed with him.
“I may have to quit this one of these days,” Hatcher said with a smile.
One veteran was especially enjoying the vintage cars as well as the honor shown to veterans.
“Can I borrow that tonight?” Navy and Vietnam veteran Mike Taylor called to a passing driver in a sleek 1920s car.
Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline. com