Local marchers make historic trek to honor fallen veterans

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, May 31, 2016

By Cain Madden

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — Rolling along in his red scooter and holding an American flag, 71-year-old Peter Jones Jr. was having a good time at the 150th Memorial Day parade, heading across the Mississippi River bridge toward the Natchez National Cemetery.

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“I’m glad to see all the people. There are people out today that haven’t been here in years,” he said. “I’ve been at it every year for my country and for the members of my family who have passed.”

Jones said he was honoring his father, Peter Jones, who served in the U.S. Army in World War II, and his brother, Henry Jones, who served in the Korean War. Jones himself served twice in the Vietnam War with the U.S. Army.

“I like to say I came in at the beginning and helped bring the boys home,” he said. “It’s imperative we celebrate Memorial Day.

“The young kids need to know why we have it, what it stands for. They don’t understand.”

Joyce Arbuthnot was participating in the Memorial Day parade for the first time in years with her sister, Linda Herrington, who was doing the walk for the first time.

“It’s probably been 10-plus years since I’ve been out here,” Arbuthnot said. “But I love it, it’s a great workout.”

“It’s important because so many have sacrificed for us to have what we have,” Herrington said. “I am loving it. I am excited to see so many people out.”

One of the organizers, Michael Turner, said there were probably 800 people marching with the soldiers, veterans and the band.

“We had people come from all over the country,” said Turner, a Desert Storm Army veteran. “I think it gets better every year.”

Kennedy Harris, 6, was riding a miniature red four-wheeler during the route. Participating in his third year, he made sure he stayed near the marching band.

“I like the music — the band,” Harris said. “My mom is in it.

“The parade is fun.”

Visiting with his father, James Theres, who was the guest speaker at the Memorial Day Celebration at the Natchez National Cemetery, Dionysius Theres was enjoying his time in town and barely breaking a sweat on his march. Theres is currently stationed with the U.S. Army at Ft. Carson, Colo.

“I think Memorial Day is very important,” he said. “You are carrying on the message to future generations. These veterans up front who have been leading it for the last 50 years won’t be able to do it forever, so it’s good to see the torch pass with so many out today.”

Leola Webster, 69, started in Vidalia and made it to Franklin Street before family picked her up for the rest of the trip. She said she came out every year to support her parents and her son.

Webster’s father, Willie Webster, served in World War I. And her son, Vernon, died during operation Desert Storm.

“It’s important to support them,” she said. “They can see us, but we can’t see them. I think it’s important to put flowers on their graves.

“My father lived to be 105. He was a hero.”