Honor and sacrifice: Miss-Lou remembers veteransPublished 2:01am Tuesday, May 29, 2012
NATCHEZ — A crowd of hundreds tooting horns, banging drums and walking across the Mississippi River bridge at 8 a.m. might ordinarily cause consternation, but on Memorial Day, it’s an expected Miss-Lou tradition.visited
Joining in an annual celebration that the area’s old-timers reminisce about participating in as children themselves, local children, adults, marching band members, four-wheeler riders, motorcyclists and anyone else who could carry a flag gathered on Magnolia Street in Vidalia for the Memorial Day Walking Parade.
Opening with a brass rendition of the national anthem, the parade proceeded to the highway and across the river, stopping at the Natchez Visitor’s Reception Center before resuming its trip to the Natchez National Cemetery.
Tiffany Paul of Vidalia said she has always attended the parade, and this year her daughter, Chesney Williams, 5, was one of the uniformed marchers.
Participating in the parade has a special significance for Williams this year. Her father is currently serving in the military in Afghanistan.
“My daughter is really interested in doing (the parade) at a young age,” Paul said. “She told me to take a picture and put it on Facebook to show her father.”
Because Memorial Day is meant to especially honor the legacy of veterans who have died, Vera Whitley — who rode in a float with her Eastern Star lodge — said she has never missed the parade.
“It’s too good,” she said. “It’s too important. Some of our family members have been veterans; my husband was a veteran.”
And for some, the parade is a community event that shouldn’t be missed.
Murphy Smith Carr lives in the San Francisco area, but he was in town this weekend for a high school class reunion. The reunion was chosen for this weekend in part because the parade can act as a perfect capstone to the event, he said.
“This is the culmination for me, and I have done this many times since I was a kid,” he said. “This is the holiday for us in Vidalia — you see more people who are coming home for this than on the Fourth of July or Christmas.”
At the National Cemetery, a brief Memorial Day ceremony followed the parade, with the Rev. James Calhoun, a veteran himself, speaking.
Memorial Day is to honor those who have died, Calhoun said, but those who lived and those currently involved in combat situations need to know that the community stands behind them.
“There is a lot of pressure involved when you get into combat situations, but we want you to know that you have somebody who is really praying for you,” he said.
Calhoun said he has had the opportunity to speak with veterans of multiple wars, and no matter what the conflict, they all came back carrying the same psychological weights.
“It doesn’t matter what war it was, we all went through the same things,” he said.
And just as the sacrifices of those who fought and died should be remembered, Calhoun said their families should also be honored.
“There were times when there was nothing (family members) could do but pray,” Calhoun said. “They were together in combat with (the servicemen).”
Now, it’s society’s job to make sure veterans can be reintegrated into society and that they are cared for in light of what they did for the country, Calhoun said.
“We had a thing that we said in combat, even to the fallen,” Calhoun said. “It was, ‘We won’t leave you behind.’
“It is up to us to say, ‘We won’t leave any of you behind.’”