LEESBURG — Cool temperatures and overcast skies could not blunt the colorful enthusiasm of the annual Leesburg Memorial Day Parade Monday morning, May 27.
Red, white and blue were the colors of choice and American flags could be seen in every direction as thousands turned out for the town’s Memorial Day tradition of honoring the nation’s war dead.
The parade started at the town hall, headed down Pearl Street, then on to Prairie Street, across SR 15 and on toward the Leesburg Cemetery.
This year’s parade included a long line of entries, featuring police, fire, youth groups, church groups and a float with more than a dozen veterans.
Sheriff Kyle P. Dukes was near the front of the parade, in uniform and tossing candy to the children. Children on top of a fire truck had to duck under the canopy of trees along the brick-lined Prairie Street.
The smell of grilled hot dogs filled the air as members of Leesburg Grace Church grilled and distributed nearly 600 from two locations.
Bob Bishop and his wife, Waneta, continued the tradition of driving his 1955 Chevrolet in the parade and distributing candy along the way.
Bishop was dressed in a red, white and blue shirt and a hat that included the phrase, Make America Great Again.
“I wish more people understood the real meaning of what it actually stands for,” said Bob Bishop about the Memorial Day holiday. “I love the way, generation-after-generation, we still honor those who protect the freedom we enjoy every day.”
Jim Heierman, 86, sat outside of his house on Rowland Avenue with other family members, including his wife, Darlene, as much of the parade passed by at the conclusion.
The parade is something he and his family enjoy every year. Usually, they sit closer to the route, but this year, a seat in their front yard worked fine.
He served in the US Army during the Korean war era.
“We have to remember the vets who gave their lives for our country,” Heierman said as his voice choked up momentarily. “I’m just proud to have been a little tiny part of it.”
At the cemetery, a small crowd — several dozen at least — assembled for a somber honoring of veterans who died in all previous United State wars. Town Council member Christina Archer read the names of several hundred buried in the Leesburg, Oswego and Clunette cemeteries.
Pastor Mike Beezley gave a short speech urging folks to look for new ways to honor those who have died for the country. One of those ways is to volunteer with a sense of unity, he said.
“I pray that we can find new ways to lay down our lives in a practical, everyday sense in love. Serving, protecting, providing and loving for those around us in this great country we live in. And may we do it together. I think that just may be the best way that we could ever memorialize those who gave their lives out of love for us and for their country,” Beezley said.