Veterans Day events take place across Wake County
Posted November 7, 2008 10:23 p.m. EST
Updated November 9, 2008 8:56 a.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina veterans and their families were honored with a parade, concert and other events across Wake County Saturday.
"It's a time-honored tradition to pause at the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month to remember our veterans who have secured our freedom," said Mary Burch, executive director of the United Service Organization.
Fifty-five units, with 1,400 members, marched in the 27th North Carolina Veterans Parade and Ceremony, which kicked off at 9:30 a.m. and wound down Fayetteville Street to the state Capital Building. A formal ceremony – featuring the Enloe Ensemble – followed at the state Capitol.
Raleigh police said that a rain-dampened crowd of about 6,000 people watched the parade.
"I think it's important, rain or shine, to be out here and show our support," spectator Marilyn Frazier said.
The parade's grand marshal was veteran Niles Harris, of South Dakota, who served in 173rd Airborne during the Vietnam War.
The USO helped get together veterans from World War II to march in the parade. One WWII vet, Hy Marks, sang the National Anthem and "God Bless America" in the ceremony.
Niles also attended an "Eighth of November" concert in Cary's Koka Booth Amphitheatre. The 82nd Airborne's All American Chorus and North Carolina's own Bo Bice performed, along with Country stars Billy Ray Cyrus, Josh Gracin and Rockie Lynn.
During a battle on Nov. 8, 1965, Niles' life was saved by a medic, then-Specialist Five Lawrence Joel, a North Carolinian who became the first living black American to be awarded the Medal of Honor since the Spanish-American War.
Niles befriended country stars Big & Rich, who wrote a song "Eighth of November" in honor of the soldiers who fought in that battle.
Along with Niles, Joel's family members were on hand to see the unveiling of a mural depicting the battle in Koka Booth Amphitheatre Saturday. A POW medal ceremony honored Robert Marshall Shrum, a survivor of the Bataan Death March.
Military demonstrations and displays started when gates opened at 3:30 p.m. The concert started at 5 p.m.
Ticket sales benefitted the National Veterans Freedom Park Foundation, which seeks to expand and improve a park in Cary honoring all five branches of the military.
The Wake County Council of Veterans Organizations and American Red Cross organized Saturday's events.
On Friday, bikers rode from Lawrence Joel Veterans' Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem to Cary's National Veterans Freedom Park.
The national holiday is Tuesday. Veterans Day events take place across the Triangle.