Veterans Day is on Sunday this year, but the Veterans Council of the Golden Isles is organizing its annual parade on Monday to coincide with the federal holiday.
The parade is set to begin at 10:30 a.m. in Mallery Park on St. Simons Island. From there, veterans will march to the Casino building band stage in Neptune Park for the ceremony.
“We appreciate the community so much, and it means so much to the veterans to see the community come out and express their support of the country and liberties we enjoy,” said Dave Olender, chair of the Veterans Council of the Golden Isles.
This year’s guest of honor will be Rear Admiral Jeffrey Jablon, commander of Submarine Group 10 at Submarine Base Kings Bay in St. Marys.
Jablon has served on four submarines and in several leadership roles within submarine command and development agencies. He’s earned a number of awards, including the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal and Joint Meritorious Service Medal, among others.
Olender encouraged everyone to bring their children to learn what it means to be a veteran and the sacrifice they’ve made.
“This is a great teaching opportunity for parents and grandparents to bring their children out so they can learn about veterans at the parade and at the park after the parade. It will be great fun,” Olender said.
Olender said the veterans council is planning something special this year in recognition of those who built and manned ships of the Merchant Marine during World War II.
“Because of the history of the shipbuilding and the Merchant Marines and all that, we’re including the Merchant Marine as a branch and recognizing their contributions as well,” Olender said.
He said the Merchant Marine suffered the highest casualties per capita of any service branch. Brunswick, in particular, contributed to the marine, as the city’s shipyards turned out 99 Liberty Ships during the course of the war.
All attendees are welcome to come to the post-ceremony barbeque as well, Olender said. Veterans eat free, but he asked anyone else to give a suggested donation of $5 before digging in.
While he couldn’t say exactly how many years a Veterans Day parade has been held on St. Simons Island, Olender the veterans council has been organizing it annually since 1996.
“The Veterans Council was formed then (in 1996), but my understanding the parade has been going on for decades in St. Simons,” Olender said.
Veterans Day started out as a celebration of the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918. It was called Armistice Day until 1954 when the U.S. officially designated it Veterans Day.
“This is the day we celebrate the service of all veterans, so this is the day we thank them for their service and for the accomplishment of being a veteran,” Olender said.
He also noted that its the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.
“I’m going to mention it in my remarks, that Sunday is the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, and explain to people why it’s important and the history behind how Armistice Day became Veterans Day,” Olender said.
Veteran Walter Caldwell said he is especially looking for anyone who served during the Vietnam War in any role. Any veterans wishing to participate in the parade should arrive in Mallery Park at 10 a.m. to form up, he said.