GRAHAM — Bill Proffitt was taught that when you see veterans, you should thank them.
He and hundreds of others did just that as downtown Graham hosted its fifth annual Veterans Day parade Saturday, Nov. 10.
“I was lucky,” Proffitt said. “I didn’t have to go when the Vietnam War was going on. I got turned down because I had to have surgery, but I lost three boys that I went to school with in ’Nam, so I mean, I try to honor them. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be where we’re at today.”
Spectators bundled up in coats to ward off the chilly morning wind began gathering on each side of Main Street around 9:30 a.m. for the big event, which was followed by a festival featuring local vendors and live performances.
Connie Boswell and fellow members of Carolina Christian Church in Burlington served free hot dogs, drinks and chips to the vets prior to the kickoff at 10 a.m.
“They gave it all for us. Yes, they did,” Boswell said.
David and Christine Quigley were at breakfast when they saw the crowd and figured they’d join in. Though it was their first time watching the parade, both have taken part in other Graham events honoring veterans.
David’s father served in the Air Force in the late 1960s.
“I know he used to come to all of this stuff in town, when he was alive, so we’re carrying that on,” he said.
As the caravan of classic cars, fire trucks, Alamance-Burlington marching bands and floats — one boasted “WWII veterans” with a small group of men waving to the crowd — passed by, some saluted, some waved, and some barked.
Charley, a 10-month-old rescued German shepherd, sported a patriotic bandana as he watched from his spot by the historic courthouse. It was his first time seeing the parade, but the fifth for his humans, Priscilla Carroll and her daughter, Christy Horner.
Horner’s grandfather was a Navy WWII veteran. That’s one of the main reasons her son, who marched in the parade with the Boy Scouts, and daughter, Taylor, both have a deep respect for military men and women.
“They fight for our country, they fight for our freedom, and freedom’s not free,” Horner said.
Men wearing baseball caps branded with their military branches and years of service could be seen standing or sitting in quiet reflection as others waved.
Many were resistant to talk about their military service, whether out of humility or not wanting to relive the pain. For some, the pain continued long after they returned home.
Bill Dishner, who served in the U.S. Army from 1960 to 1963, said when soldiers returned from Vietnam, they “were treated like scum.”
“Things have changed, but still a lot are having a hard time dealing with it, even after all these years,” Dishner said.
Parades like this, he added, are helping heal those wounds one year at a time.
Reporter Jessica Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 336-506-3046. Follow her on Twitter at @jessicawtn.