Thousands honor Korean War vets at Fayetteville parade
Posted November 9, 2013 8:50 a.m. EST
Updated November 9, 2013 11:39 p.m. EST
Fayetteville, N.C. — Thousands lined the streets in downtown Fayetteville Saturday morning for the 2013 Veterans Day Parade, the biggest event of the city's annual "Heroes Homecoming" celebration.
More than 100 units participate in the parade, including veterans’ organizations, local bands, high school and university ROTC programs, and representatives from Fort Bragg and Pope Field.
"If there is any place in North Carolina that should be celebrating Veterans Day, it's Fayetteville," Mayor Tony Chavonne said. "This is such a great time. There was a time Fayetteville wasn't proud of being a military town. It's been wonderful to see that change, and our community embraces the military so well."
This year's festivities were designed to honor veterans of the Korean War, which ended 60 years ago this week.
The Korean War is often referred to as “the forgotten war” because it was fought between the higher-profile World War II and the Vietnam War. About 34,000 Americans were killed during the three-year conflict.
Tom McCollum, the public affairs director at Fort Bragg, said there are about 70,000 living veterans who served in Korea.
"The Korean War ended in a stalemate, and luckily, the break in fighting has lasted 60 years. The state of North Carolina lost more than 700 soldiers in the Korean War."
Retired Sgt. Major Elemiel Strouse, one of those living veterans, said he came to Saturday's parade to see others who went through combat with him. He said the outpouring of support for Korean War veterans was "overwhelming."
"I went to Korea, I came out without a scar. When I went to Vietnam, I made it out of there," Strouse said. "I was lucky. God has blessed me. I'm still moving and cooking, and doing all sorts of things myself."
Command Sgt. Maj. Isaia Vimoto said Saturday's turnout was a reminder of what the military means to Fayetteville.
"It's a great opportunity to see the community support and let our veterans know they are never forgotten," Vimoto said.
Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, agreed, saying that he was glad to see so many people lining the streets.
"From what I saw in the 1990s to what I see today, Fayetteville's support for the military is getting stronger. When I served at Fort Bragg before, the parade and the crowds were smaller. Today's turnout proves that North Carolina is the most military-friendly state. Fort Bragg represents everything good about the Army."
Heroes Homecoming festivities will continue Saturday afternoon with a family day celebration at 12 p.m. at the NC Veterans Park.
On Sunday, three stars of the television show M*A*S*H will take part in a public meet-and-greet session at NC Veterans Park in Fayetteville. Actors Jamie Farr, who portrayed Cpl. Klinger, Loretta Swit, who played Maj. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, and William Christopher, who played chaplain Father Mulcahy, will participate.
“M*A*S*H brought much needed awareness and recognition to veterans and victims of the Korean War, and the actors' presence at Heroes Homecoming III is an important reminder that we have not forgotten the sacrifices of those soldiers," John Meroski, chief executive of the Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, said in a statement.
Heroes Homecoming festivities will conclude on Monday with a 9 a.m. breakfast at the Fayetteville VA Hospital and a 10 a.m. blood drive at the Cape Fear Valley Blood Donor Center.
In Raleigh, the North Carolina Veterans Day Parade and ceremony began on Fayetteville Street Saturday at 9:30 a.m. Officials also held a wreath laying ceremony at 11 a.m. on the north side of the Capitol grounds.