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Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center


Veterans Day parade honors our uniformed heroes

Grand Marshal Francis Bolds waves to the Veterans Day parade crowd from a Model A Ford.

Grand Marshal Francis Bolds waves to the Veterans Day parade crowd from a Model A Ford. Photo taken by Master Sgt. David Lobbestael, USAF, ret.

By JW Huckfeldt, Public Affairs Specialist Trainee
Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Veterans from World War II to this era’s latest deployment operations showed up for, and participated in, the Charleston Veterans Day Parade in downtown Charleston on Sunday, Nov. 6. Spectators lined the streets to hear Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Director Scott R. Isaacks pay homage and say thanks to our nation’s heroes. Immediately after Isaacks’ remarks, Senior Airman Khadija Slaughter sang a spectacular rendition of the Star Spangled Banner as a U.S. Air Force C-17 flew over the crowd and parade route.

The parade began with a convoy of flag-bearing motorcycles. The lead motorcyclist flew the American flag, a group followed flying the military service flags and then a cavalcade flying state flags. Robert Burtron, a Vietnam Veteran who served as a U.S. Army Combat Engineer rode in the rally proudly flying the Oklahoma flag. This was Burtron’s eighth year riding in the Charleston Veterans Day Parade.

Veterans Day Parade Grand Marshal, retired Senior Chief Petty Officer Francis Bolds, waved to the crowd as he passed by in a vintage Model A Ford. The World War II Veteran served 30 years in the U.S. Navy and volunteered more than 9,000 hours to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center over another quarter century—and he continues to serve.

A U.S. Air Force Color Guard followed the Grand Marshal and a U.S. Army Band unit marched close behind—the bass drum sounding off as the Soldiers and Airmen kept cadence to the beat.

More than 50 different groups participated in this year’s Veterans Day Parade. Charleston VAMC Voluntary Service Program Manager Vicki Johnson not only helped organize the parade, but also rode in the convoy of floats and varied vehicles. Johnson, the Commander of the Women Veterans of America Lowcountry Chapter, finds outreach to female Veterans rewarding. And, with good cause, too—female Veterans are the fastest growing Veteran demographic.

“The Veterans Day Parade is a great day to celebrate not only those who served in uniform, but the families who supported them,” Johnson, a retired U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant, said. “It’s wonderful to see the city of Charleston come out and support our Veterans.”

Other floats, groups and vehicles featured in the parade were a vintage Army Jeep, a U.S. Coast guard boat, Cub Scouts, and an Air Force K-9 unit. Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center also deployed a float at the front of the formation and Charleston VAMC Neurology, EMU, and Stroke Program Coordinator Elizabeth Aprile, RN, was along for the ride.

“Participating in the parade was exciting,” Aprile said. “You could feel the electricity in the air—hearing the Veterans in the crowd yell ‘thanks’ at the VA float. It was a unique interaction with Veterans and Charlestonians and I hope I get the honor to ride on the float again next year.”

The Veterans Day Parade was one for the ages. Charlestonians lined the streets to support not only our nation’s heroes, but the quality continued care that those heroes continue receiving at Charleston VAMC—where every day is Veterans Day.

Check out The Post and Courier's gallery of Veterans Day parade photos on their website.


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