PEMBROKE — The streets were lined early on Saturday despite near-freezing temperatures as Robeson County freedom-lovers saluted their veterans.
Red, white and blue was abundant as folks bundled up in blankets or in their cars at the annual Veterans Day Parade that featured floats and bands, JROTC elected officials and candidates, kings and queens, and business and churches as part of the hour-long parade that began at Pembroke Elementary School and ended at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
“I was very happy with the turnout. I didn’t think many people would come out because of the weather,” Larry Jacobs, a Vietnam War veteran and member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said.
The town of Pembroke and the Pembroke VFW chapter hold the annual event.
“We do this primarily to honor our living veterans but we do recognize at the same time the falling veterans,” said Jacobs. “We choose this time because it’s a time to set aside and honor these guys and we just want to properly express how much we appreciate the sacrifices that they have done for this nation.”
Rudy Locklear, who rolled down the parade route on his motorcycle, has attended his 50th event in a row.
“This is a special day to meet people that you went to high school with. I’ve seen people I’ve known for years. It really is a special day,” Locklear said. “It is a great day to recognize all our veterans, especially the ones in World War II. I have three uncles that served in World War II.”
Locklear is a member of the VFW, the Disabled American Veterans, American Legion and Purple Heart Association.
“I do a little bit of everything,” Locklear said.
Locklear joined the military on Jan. 5, 1966. He went to the U.S. Army Airborne School, also known as jump school, and stayed eight months in combat in the Vietnam War. He received the Purple Heart, presented by the president to those wounded or killed while in service.
Locklear said that the best part of the day is “the honor and respect we give to our living veterans.”
“I feel that every person should put a flag on a veterans grave and we should say ‘welcome home,” he said.
After the parade, about 50 people stuck around for the veterans ceremony held at the Milton R. Hunt Memorial Park. Matt Scott, who is running for district attorney, was the special speaker and the recipient of the Lumbee Warrior Pen.
Scott served in Iraq, where he was awarded the Bronze Star for service. Now, while serving as an assistant district attorney, Scott has continued his service with the U.S. Army Reserves as a lieutenant colonel.
“We normally look for a combat veteran and we like to choose local people and someone that is familiar with the area,” Jacobs said about the decision process.
In his speech, Scott spoke not only of the veterans but those serving today.
“Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, personal courage and integrity, to them they were not empty words but a way of conducting themselves and living their lives,” said Scott about the veterans. “When a soldier puts on the uniform, they don’t not stop becoming a citizen. When they take it off, their service to our nation shouldn’t stop either.”
After the event the VFW held a chicken and fish plate sale, at the VFW building, to raise money for disabled veterans and the families of fallen veterans.
Reach Tomeka Sinclair at 910-416-5865