McCrory, thousands honor veterans in Thomasville
THOMASVILLE | Gov. Pat McCrory and thousands of people paid tribute Monday to the members of the military who lost their lives fighting for freedom.
“I saw the best of America and the best of North Carolina (Monday),” the governor said moments after giving remarks at Cushwa Stadium.
The 27th Thomasville North Carolina Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony included speeches from the governor, U.S. Marine Corps Ret. Maj. Gen. Cornell Wilson and U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-8th. McCrory's visit meant it was the first time in the parade's history that a sitting North Carolina governor served as the parade's grand marshal.
McCrory said the most “moving thing” during his tenure as governor came Monday. That's when McCrory met the family members who have recently lost their loved ones in the military. He said some returned home and lost their lives because they didn't get the care they deserve.
“That sent me a loud message that we got to do everything we can to help the veterans,” McCrory said.
The governor recognized veterans who served in Vietnam and asked them to stand, at which time they received applause. McCrory said he and Hudson must fight for veterans. “We've got to do everything we can, and I know Congressman Richard Hudson is doing just that,” he said.
McCrory said residents who are veterans can now get “veteran” put on their driver's license so they don't have to pull out other documents when needing to indicate their service. He also explained he's hopeful if legislation passes for any returning veteran coming home from the military will have in-state tuition covered for any community college or university in the state.
Joel Pierce, a member of the Thomasville City Council and chief of staff for the Parade and ceremony, said a record crowd attended the day worth of festivities. He said he didn't have an estimate to release but was sure a record was broken.
“I think it's been an outstanding turnout, glad to have this number of veterans,” Pierce said, adding he was pleased to have the visits from the governor and Hudson.
Hudson was honored to be at the parade and ceremony. “This is my opportunity to thank our veterans and their families,” he said. “I'm just proud to be here.”
Hudson also said members of the military must be taken care of.
Thousands of people lined the streets in downtown Thomasville to watch the parade. Bernard McCauley, who resides on Salem Street, said he's watched all 27 parades while in front of his residence.
“It's growing pretty rapidly,” McCauley said. “Every year it gets a little bigger.”
Eddie Fouts of Thomasville sat on a blanket at the corner of Arlington Avenue and Salem Street. He wore a patriotic shirt and stated several of his family members served in the military.
“Without them (veterans) doing what they did, we would be like the Middle East,” Fouts said. “We would be in conflict all the time and wouldn't be able to enjoy the freedoms we have.”
Jeff Boozer, a trooper with the N.C. Highway Patrol who was off duty Monday, attended the Memorial Day festivities with his wife, Kelly, their son, 7-year-old Keffley and mother-in-law, Pam. The Boozers have been to six of Thomasville's Memorial Day events.
“Keffley loves it,” Kelly Boozer said minutes before the parade made its way down Salem Street. “One year he got an American flag from one of the soldiers that came by. He cherishes it. He loves it.”
Jeff Boozer said the event was all about the veterans. “I'm just thankful for what they've done for the freedoms we have because not everywhere is like this,” he said.
Ronald Bratton is the former chief of Thomasville Police and a current member of Thomasville City Council. He was pleased with the turnout and expressed appreciation for the Memorial Day Committee's efforts.
“I think it's a great, special occasion for Thomasville,” Bratton said. “I think they've been trying to get the governor for a number of years. It's good to see the governor here.”
The event in Thomasville wasn't the only celebration in Davidson County over the past week. Saturday, veterans placed a flag at the Thomasville Veterans Park. There hadn't been a flag there since the dedication of the park in 1954, and an effort was conducted to collect private donations to make it happen.
The Lexington Dispatch, by: Darrick Ignasiak