Veterans Day organizers in Cape Girardeau say event participants have been hard to come by.
Area veterans will be heralded with parades, ceremonies and guest speakers from long-ago wars on Friday and Saturday to mark Veterans Day this year. But at least one organizer grumbled that there likely won't be enough public participation in Cape Girardeau and that they couldn't even secure a school band to play in its annual parade.
"It sickens me, it really does," said Deborah Griffin, president of the local VFW Ladies Auxiliary, which organized the Cape Girardeau festivities to be held Saturday, a day after Veterans Day. "Veterans are having to do all the work to organize. What kind of salute to veterans is that? There will be more veterans in the parade than watching it."
Griffin said many of the area high schools declined to participate in their parade -- most saying they were too busy or had conflicting schedules. The Cape Girardeau parade is held on Broadway at 10 a.m. Saturday from the Southeast Missourian building west to Freedom Corner at Capaha Park. The high schools all said they were busy and Southeast Missouri State University's band has to play at a football game that day.
"That doesn't say much about what these schools think about our veterans, does it?" said Griffin, whose husband and brother fought in Vietnam and whose daughter serves in the U.S. Air Force. "We offered to pay traveling expenses for schools that are a little further away and they still couldn't do it."
Central High School has also opted not to have its Veterans Day ceremony and is instead encouraging the public to attend the high-school ceremony in Jackson. Librarian Julia Jorgensen, who organizes the ceremony each year, could not be reached Friday afternoon for comment.
Still, organizers are hoping for a big turnout. The Cape Girardeau parade will include the Missouri National Guard, the Sons of the American Revolution, Boy Scouts, the SEMO Harley Owners Group, the Jerry Ford Orchestra, the antique car club and a mule team.
After the parade arrives at Freedom Corner, the Rev. Tom Zych, the state chaplain for the Marine Corps League, will give a brief speech entitled "Freedom Isn't Free."
Meanwhile, Jackson is experiencing a wide range of participation for its Veterans Day ceremonies, with two high school bands, a high school ceremony and other events, said one of the organizers, David Ludwig, a veteran and member of American Legion Post 158.
Jackson's ceremonies are on Friday and begin at the Jackson High School Auditorium at 9 a.m. for an hour-long ceremony to honor veterans. The event will include patriotic songs, veterans reciting quotes from the nation's founding fathers and some other historical information.
At 10 a.m., there will be a reception at Jackson High School's cafeteria for veterans with coffee, doughnuts and cake. In the afternoon, the Veterans Day parade will start at 5 p.m. in uptown Jackson. The parade marshal is former U.S. Ranger and decorated World War II veteran Austin Bagby.
The Jackson parade will include the Jackson and Oak Ridge high school bands, the 4-H Club, the fire department, Marine Corps Honor Guard, the Jackson High School FFA, Jackson High School cheerleaders and Spirit Dancers, Southeast Missouri State University ROTC officers and several Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts troops, said Ludwig, who is also county auditor.
The Veterans Home and representatives of all other branches of the military will also be in the parade, he said, along with antique cars, and the Jackson police and sheriff's department.
"We think we'll have a good turnout," he said. "We're very enthusiastic about it this year. Last year we had some unseasonable weather. The parade should be bigger with more people involved this year."
At 6 p.m., Jackson will host a ceremony for veterans at New McKendree United Methodist Church in uptown Jackson. The speaker will be Ray Epps, a retired minister who served in Europe in World War II. Epps was given a Bronze Star and the French Unit Declaration. His unit helped liberate concentration camps in Austria, Ludwig said.
Ludwig said it's important to honor veterans.
"We have to keep the memory alive," he said. "We have more freedoms than any other country in the world. We must preserve them. Veterans are a very important resource for the United States to preserve our peace and we need to recognize them."
Scott City High School is also having a Veteran's Day ceremony on Thursday at 8 a.m. at the high school gym. The public is invited.
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