The third annual Liberty County Veterans Council’s Veterans Day parade marched through downtown Hinesville Friday afternoon amid crowds that lined both sides of the streets, cheering and waving flags for their American heroes present and past.
In anticipation of the coming parade, families vied for the best parade-viewing spots along Gen. Screven Way and Main Street. Sgt. Rocky, a locally famous English bulldog, stood along the sidelines in his Army combat uniform — complete with sergeant’s stripes — inspecting the crowds, while his owner, Traci Wheeler, explained his rank and status.
"Yes, he really is a sergeant," Wheeler told one young lady as she reached down to pet the friendly dog. "Rocky is the 3rd Infantry Division’s official mascot."
As time passed, some children became bored and complained for the parade to begin. Others, like 2-year-old James Hicks III, conducted their own parade.
James marched along Main Street ahead of his grandmother, Florence Hamilton, waving an American flag and, like Sgt. Rocky, wearing his own set of ACUs.
"He just wants to be like his daddy," Hamilton explained. "His daddy, Spc. James Hicks Jr., is assigned to (the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team), but he’s not marching today. We just came to see the parade."
Young Hicks didn’t have to wait much longer for the parade to begin. The sounds of drums and sirens could be heard rounding the curve on Hendry Street. Flashing blue lights then got the kids and families worked up. Hinesville’s heroes were on their way.
The parade was led by four members of the Liberty County Veterans Council, who immediately were followed by Maj. Gen. Robert "Abe" Abrams, commander of the 3rd ID and Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, and 3rd ID Command Sgt. Maj. Edd Watson, along with 350 soldiers from the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team and 4th IBCT.
Also marching in the parade were cadets from the Liberty County Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and Bradwell Institute’s JROTC, as well as cadets from the Georgia National Guard’s Youth ChalleNGe program. This group paused for a moment in front of the courthouse on Main Street while its rifle drill team wowed the crowds with precision rifle drills.
Other veterans’ organizations like the Disabled American Veterans, first responders and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also took part in the parade. High school bands provided the music, which often was concealed under the blaring of a fire truck siren. Slick cars, motorcycles and even horses participated in the celebration.
As the sounds and flashing lights passed, the crowds began to leave. The parade was over for another year, but according to Luis Carreras, Army Reserve ambassador for Georgia, the support for veterans past and present remains very strong in Hinesville and Liberty County.
Along with the parade, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6602 conducted its own Veterans Day celebration Friday morning. According to Kevin Larson, chief of public communications with Fort Stewart’s public affairs office, soldiers from Fort Stewart participated in 14 separate Veterans Day celebrations in the surrounding community on Friday.