ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Shaded areas were in high demand Saturday morning as thousands lined Roswell Street for the 65th annual Alpharetta Old Soldiers Day Parade.
Though sunshine prevailed throughout the morning, cool temperatures didn’t last long as the procession of more than 100 floats and vehicles wended along the tree-lined route.
The event began at 7 a.m. with an 8K road race. At around 9 a.m., thousands of visitors began to collect downtown, many pushing strollers and carrying lawn chairs to the strains of patriotic music from the Alpharetta City Band.
As the throngs jockeyed for prime spots along the street, local, state and federal dignitaries – from Mayor David Belle Isle to U.S. Rep. Karen Handel – gathered near the grandstand.
Grand Marshal for the event was Rear Admiral (Ret.) Tilghman Payne, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and 33-year veteran of the Navy. He previously served as U.S. Defense representative for Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau.
Payne began by recognizing a multitude in attendance who are often overlooked during patriotic observances – the families of soldiers.
“They go through the same family separations,” he said. “They miss the same birthdays and anniversaries. They go through the same rigors of military life and all of those challenges. They enable these veterans to serve.”
Payne’s brief remarks focused on the history of the United States Military.
“Our country was founded over 241 years ago dedicated to the proposition that we are all created equal,” he said. “We’re all entitled to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. Our founding fathers felt so strongly about that that they started a war, and we went through a revolution. Our first veterans fought at Lexington and Concord, and they wintered over at Valley Forge.
“Where would we be without the courage of those who risked everything to fight the British at Yorktown or to wade ashore at Normandy, or endure the cold at Chosin Reservoir, fight at Hue City or in Iraq or Afghanistan?”
Veterans have shaped the history or America, Payne said, and America has shaped the history of the world. Events like the Old Soldiers Parade preserve and keep alive that history.
Such events, he said, memorialize those who have gone before and show gratitude to those who are currently serving.
“They provide context, inspiration and an example for those who will follow,” Payne said.
Following Payne’s remarks, the parade got underway with an almost ceaseless procession of classic and shiny new cars, political and military dignitaries, marching bands, floats and horses. Because of the huge number of entries, the parade ran for more than 90 minutes. The Parade Committee selected the Radio of the YMCA of Metro Atlanta as the top entry. The U.S. Submarine Veterans Grayback Base, which finished first last year, placed second. Cambridge High School football and cheerleaders was awarded third place.
At the parade’s terminus at American Legion Post 201 on Wills Road, visitors were treated to free hot dogs and soft drinks.