Veterans stand proud for annual parade

benw@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 9, 2013 

Sitting in the viewing stand for the annual Veterans Day Parade in downtown Columbus, Ward James looked among the flag waving crowd and felt honored to be recognized.

“I feel that it’s a great honor to be recognized and Columbus, Ga., is really outstanding for veterans,” Ward said. “Columbus is good for veterans.”

Ward was among the thousands of veterans who filled the streets of Phenix City and Columbus Saturday for the annual parade organized in 2009 by Columbus Councilor Jerry “Pops” Barnes. The parade was filled with Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps students from area high schools, antique military vehicles and cars and city officials. James, 87, is a veteran of the Korean War where he served as a tanker with the 3rd Infantry, 64th Tank Battalion. He was invited by Barnes to watch the event from a viewing stand in the Broadway median near 11th Street. “It is a great honor to be part of it,” he said.

Bill Porter, a Vietnam War veteran who served in field artillery near Pleiku in the Central Highlands in 1967, said it’s great to get support from the community. “So many years, being a Vietnam Veteran wasn’t supported very well,” he said. “They took a long time for somebody to come up and thank us.”

Wearing a black vest, a red hat and two holstered pistols strapped to his side, James Grace said he felt a pang of patriotism as the parade made its way down Broadway. “It was something to see,” said Grace who served three tours in Vietnam as a Marine.

On the back of his vest with a Vietnam patch were the words, “The Land That God Forgot. I’m sure to go to heaven because I’ve spent my time in hell.”

Grace, 66, said he was a machine gunner operating near Quang Tri near the Demilitarized Zone. “We were involved in some we couldn’t talk about,” he said. “We stayed in the bush most of the time. We were the devil dogs of the 9th Marines.”

Although Grace was wearing a .45-caliber revolver on one hip and .44-caliber magnum on other, he said his war fighting days are over. “I just like weapons,” he said.

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