Miss-Lou residents march to honor fallen heroes in annual Memorial Day parade

Published 12:39 am Tuesday, May 30, 2017

By Christian Coffman

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — Residents of the Miss-Lou marched across the Mississippi River Bridge from Vidalia to the Natchez National Cemetery Monday morning in honor and remembrance of friends and family lost serving our country.

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The march continues a tradition that dates back more than 150 years, when participants traveled across the river by ferry.

Andrew and Cynthia Smith make a point to come out for the parade every Memorial Day.

“We’re here for everybody who died. It’s a tradition,” Cynthia Smith said.

Sarah Smith-Jones, Andrew’s sister, said she came with him to celebrate Memorial Day. Smith-Jones said she wished more locals attended the event. 

“They’re missing a treat,” Smith-Jones said. “You get to march with all the soldiers, alive and deceased.”

Vietnam War veteran Charles Warner said the parade is about respecting the dead and remembering what the holiday means.

“If people couldn’t make it but wanted to, then their hearts are still with us and the fallen veterans,” Warner said.

Supporter and parade-goer Linda Rodgers said she has been a part of the parade since she was a child, but because of back problems has attended the march as an observer for the past three years.

“I’ve been to my husband’s grave and placed flowers for him and my grandmother,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers’ daughter from New Orleans came to the parade, along with Rodgers’ grandson from Ruston, La.

“You have family that comes from everywhere; everybody comes home to give honor,” Rodgers said.

Vice Commander Nathaniel Williams from Vidalia said he and his soldiers-in-arms are a part of the parade every year.

“We honor our veterans who died for this country,” Williams said. “We love what we do.

“As long as I’m living, I’m going to participate.”

Williams said he marched in the parade especially for his brother, who is buried in the national cemetery.

“My whole family was a military family, brothers, nieces, nephews … that’s what we believe in — this country and serving it,” Williams said. “When you’re young you get out and join the military if you’re not going to college. We believe in that.”

Williams said he has many friends and family members who fought and died in World War II and the Vietnam War buried in the national cemetery.

“We honor them with our hearts, and our hearts go out to their families,” Williams said. “We’re going to keep marching and we’re not going to stop.”

Triand C. McCoy said his group of Shriners and members of the Prince Hall Masons of Louisiana came to celebrate the 151st anniversary of the parade as part of a tradition.

“I’ve invited these brothers to come and be a part of this,” McCoy said. “This is something that I’ve done since I was (10 years old). They’ve embraced this as a part of what we do.”

McCoy said the number of people who attended the Memorial Day parade was one of the strongest gatherings that he has seen in a long time. He said he was happy to see how many locals came out to walk.

“It’s 3.8 miles from where we start, so it’s a torturous little walk, and we can feel (the presence of those lost) every step of the way — it keeps (their memories) here and here,” said McCoy, pointing toward his head and heart.