Walthourville showed its appreciation for soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines on Armed Forces Day with its fourth annual Military Appreciation Day celebration Saturday.
The family event kicked off with a parade that began at Baconton Missionary Baptist Church. Police escorts led the way, followed by a color guard provided by Youth Challenge cadets. Soldiers, city officials, local residents and representatives from civic and veterans organizations walked the three-plus miles from the starting point to Johnnie Frasier Park on Shaw Road.
Among those walking were Mayor Daisy Pray and city councilwoman Sarah Hayes. They led the YMCA of Coastal Georgia, the Disabled American Veterans, and 32 soldiers with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
First Lt. Corey Gathers and Staff Sgt. Carlois Sullivan said their troops looked forward to the morning march, but mostly they looked forward to doughnuts and coffee, then barbecue chicken lunches.
All-terrain vehicles, trucks, buses and, of course, a fire truck made up the motorized part of the parade. Some flag-waving residents joined in the fun, walking along with the marchers at least part of the route.
“It was fun getting it all together,” said Margaret Bess, coordinator for the event. “It was a pretty good event, all in all. We served about 275 (BBQ) plates this year.”
Bess said the starting point for this year’s parade was changed at the last minute when the number of soldiers and other organizations that would be marching were counted. Before the parade began, Bess and City Clerk Juanita Johnson were “running from place to place,” finalizing last minute adjustments and getting things organized. They had to stop along the side of the road to see the parade go by, she said.
Bess said this year also saw additional booths at Frasier Park. There was a booth representing TRICARE and another with representatives from Fort Stewart’s Family Advocacy, she said. VIP Office Furniture and Supply, Abundant Life Worship Center and Enchanted Creations Pottery also had booths. Sparkey’s Family Fun provided inflatables for the kids. There were other activities, lots of food and music too.
“From now on, we’re going to have the event every third Saturday in May,” Bess said. “We’re going to keep it on Armed Forces Day, since that worked out so well for us. Maybe next year it’ll be even bigger. We hope so.”