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National veterans parade will return to Birmingham this year

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National Veterans Day Foundation
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The National Veterans Day Parade will return in-person on Nov. 11 following last year’s virtual celebration.

The march will commemorate the first National Veterans Day Parade, which also took place in Birmingham in 1947. Not only will it celebrate the anniversary, but it will even follow the original route those same soldiers took 74 years ago.

The parade starts at 1:30 p.m. Veterans and active military service members will start at the intersection of Reverend Abraham Woods Jr. Boulevard and 18th Street. The march will conclude near the Boutwell Auditorium at the end of 19th Street. Several military institutions will return to this year’s march including the Marion Military Institute cadets and the 117th Air Refueling Wing.

Mark Ryan is the president of the National Veterans Day Foundation. Ryan said he is most excited about kicking things off in-person for the first time in two years.

“This is the 74th parade, and the fact that we are going back live, that to me makes it the most special because I had a lot of concerns about going virtual and then getting people back out and participating live again,” Ryan said. “You have that out of sight, out of mind mentality.”

Ryan said he hopes the parade will also serve as a reminder for Americans to remember the sacrifices their neighbors have given to support and protect their country.

“When you work, whether it’s as a soldier or as a doctor or as a construction worker, you want and deserve an occasional pat on the back and someone to say, ‘Job well done,’” Ryan said. “I hope that’s what Veterans Day does every year for our veterans and even our active military members.”

The average number of participants at previous parades sits between 3,500 and 4,000. This year’s parade currently has more than 2,000 participants. However, Ryan said this is a step in the right direction from last year’s virtual parade.

“All in all, there is not another state that gets the participation that we do here,” Ryan said.

In addition to the parade, the foundation will host a commemoration dinner at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel on Thursday, Nov. 10 at 5 p.m. The foundation reports that the annual celebration honors veterans who make their community a little bit more exceptional. This year’s dinner will honor military members who were deployed for COVID-19 responses throughout the state. Honorees will receive thanks and a special commemorative coin.

Joshua LeBerte is a news intern for Alabama Public Radio.
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