Almost every time a patriotic float or a military jeep inched down the street in Lexington, Bill Simpson would wave, clap and yell, “Thank you.’’
He was among hundreds of people cheering during Sunday’s Lexington County Veterans’ Day Parade, a yearly event established to honor soldiers, sailors and others who served in the U.S. armed forces. It is usually held in advance of Veterans Day, which this year is Friday.
“This has been in our plans all week,’’ said Simpson, a West Columbia resident who brought his wife and four children to the parade. “I’m in between shifts at work, but I made it out here today. It’s important for us to honor the veterans.’’
The 14th annual parade featured brightly colored floats, armored military vehicles, high school bands, jeeps carrying veterans and local politicians – and a Statue of Liberty replica. A camel even walked in the parade. Many of the floats and automobiles were adorned with American flags, although a Confederate veterans group also had an entry decorated with Rebel flags.
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Before things got started, planes were flown above the parade route as a sign of respect. Lexington’s parade, which lasted about 40 minutes, moved down Main Street before ending on South Lake Drive at the county administration building. The weather couldn’t have been nicer, with sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s.
Vietnam veteran Harold Roof Jr. said he appreciated the turnout.
“I don’t know that I’ve missed one of these parades,’’ said Roof, a Lexington resident whose family has served in the military as far back as the American Revolution. “I figure this is the least I can do to pay respects to my fellow comrades.’’
As Jerry Barnes sat on the side of Main Street, waiting for the parade to start, he said he was there for two reasons. One of his children is in the Lexington High School band and would be marching. He also has two older children in the military and had an uncle who served in Vietnam.
“Those guys and those girls are serving our country, keeping us protected while we sleep,’’ Barnes said, noting that “it’s a good day for a parade.’’
Lexington County’s parade gets the jump on other area veterans’ parades, including a larger one in downtown Columbia set for Friday.
Veterans Day, which originated in 1919 as “Armistice Day,’’ became a national holiday nearly 80 years ago to honor former military personnel. The name changed to Veterans Day in 1954.