There’s no finer way to honor Veterans than with a parade, and if you’re a BirminghamMom, you owe it to yourself and your kids to experience our local Veterans Day parade that is the nation’s oldest. Raymond Weeks, a Birmingham veteran, initiated the first celebration in 1947.
Although it’s a somber occasion in that we are remembering those who have fallen during combat, it is also a proud moment for those who made it through the perils of war and active military service. You can’t help but be touched by the sight of aged veterans riding a parade float and offering a slow wave from beneath their jaunty caps. It’s with irony that you remember some of them fought in the “War to End All Wars.”
Then there is a crowd favorite, the Rosie the Riveter crew, all smiling and sporting the signature red polka-dot hair wrap. In contrast to the older vets are the young kids of Marion Military Institute, in dress uniform and in perfect formation, followed by various National Guard units stepping by in cadence.
It’s not all formal and serious. There are Boy Scout troops, show horses and their riders, and even the Birmingham City Police driving carefully synchronized motorcycle routines (this must be the fun police stuff we never get to see). Of course there are a few beauty queens in convertibles – would it be a parade otherwise? – and lots of Buicks, which are apparently the ride of choice for senior vets.
The parade begins at 1:30 and comes south down 19th Street. You’ll have a better time if you take a collapsible chair or two, and a small flag will be good for waving (several vendors will be happy to sell you a flag and some cotton candy, so be warned). If you want to grab lunch and make a day of it, Chic-fil-A, Zoe’s, and Quizno’s are just off 19th street. The second floor of Harbert Plaza also has deli sandwiches, barbeque, and Chinese in a food court setting, although navigating the escalator and arranging a table is probably too much work with small children.
This is truly old fashioned entertainment, with nothing flashy and no stunts, but the meaningfulness behind it is profound. Consider that many of these veterans left all they knew to go to other parts of the world in the name of our country. Some of them were forever changed by their experiences as a witness to history. It almost seems a bit mundane for us to just be lined up with our kids, clapping and waving flags along a city street. However, I like to think they are as happy to see us as we are to see them, sharing this simple moment that they fought to make possible.