Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — The annual Memorial Day Parade makes its way across the Mississippi River Bridge Monday morning on the way to the Natchez National Cemetery.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — The annual Memorial Day Parade makes its way across the Mississippi River Bridge Monday morning on the way to the Natchez National Cemetery.

Miss-Lou residents, veterans honor fallen heroes

Published 12:01am Tuesday, May 27, 2014

NATCHEZ — A sea of hundreds of marchers donning red, white and blue and waving American flags streamed across the Mississippi River bridge and into the Natchez National Cemetery Monday morning all for one cause.

“We’re here to honor our fallen heroes,” said Will Moffett, 47, of Vidalia, who has been marching in the annual Memorial Day parade since he was 13.

Moffett played the trumpet during the parade, along with several other musicians and said the parade is an important tradition for the community.

Participating in the parade has become a tradition in Moffett’s family, and patriotism was instilled in him early in life.

“We must assume the responsibility to keep this going and to remember our history,” Moffett said. “So many soldiers died so that we would continue to be free, so we must, we must commemorate them and those who continue to fight for us.”

The parade dates back as far back as 1867, when residents celebrated Memorial Day by crossing the Mississippi River by ferry, walking to the top of Silver Street and marching to the cemetery. After the bridge was built in the 1940s, residents began marching across the bridge to the cemetery.

U.S. Army veterans and Vidalia residents Sharon Fair and Tyberia Bell-Bowman said the Memorial Day parade is an event they look forward to every year.

“You see people you haven’t seen in 20 years come out just for this,” Bell-Bowman said. “This is a time a lot of people come home and come out for the parade.

Fair said it is important that area residents continue to support the parade as a Memorial Day tradition.

“It’s up to us to keep it alive,” she said.

Deon Wilson of Vidalia said the service and sacrifice the men and women of the military make touch everyone.

“Everybody out here knows somebody in the military or knows somebody who died serving,” she said.

Bell-Bowman said she was overwhelmed to see the crowd of parade participants who came out to support the military Monday.

“I can’t express to you how it feels,” she said. “It’s just a joy to see this many people come together and support our veterans and our troops and the ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jeremy Houston, an Afghanistan veteran, said he, too, was happy to see hundreds gather in support of fallen heroes.

“It makes me feel good to see all these people here to honor the blood, tears and sacrifice our servicemen and women have given,” he said.

Houston said he hopes to see the parade continue as a Miss-Lou tradition for many years to come.

“I hope it is something I can see my children march for,” he said.