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'Heroes' celebration to honor veterans

August 31, 2003|GARY MOYERS

Danville's "Celebrating American Heroes - Past and Present" parade and day-long activities Saturday actually began at a Memorial Day ceremony with Police Chief Jeff Peek in attendance.

"I was watching the ceremony, and it kept going through my mind that all our people over there now, and the ones who served in the past, are heroes," said Peek. "Regardless of people's political leanings about the war in Iraq, I was impressed with how everyone rallied around the troops and supported them. I said then, we need to have a real celebration to honor all our veterans."

From that germ of an idea, several groups and civic organizations are collaborating to stage Danville's salute to veterans, complete with a parade, wreath-laying ceremony, speeches and entertainment.

"This is a long overdue recognition for our heroes, to say thank you and to share with them our appreciation," said Peek. "What we'll see Saturday is a combination of several ideas from different people and groups."

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Peek said the parade idea finally evolved to include what he termed a "USO-type show."

"I think what Bob Hope did for the military for so many years is still fresh in everyone's minds, so the idea for a USO show came about," he said.

The day will begin at 9 a.m. with a flag-raising ceremony at Weisiger Park, complete with 21-gun salute.

"I love the ceremony surrounding raising and lowering the flag," said Peek. "I don't think you can help but get a chill when you watch it."

The Summer Singers, under the direction of Centre College music professor Barbara Hall, will perform at 10, followed by the parade down Main Street.

"The route will follow the Christmas parade, beginning at Centre College and going past Constitution Square," said Peek.

The parade will include military vehicles, local personalities and dignitaries, bands and, of course, veterans.

"What we're hoping is that all the veterans in attendance will join the back of the parade and walk through so we can show them how much we appreciate them," said Peek.

The Danville High School Band, under the direction of Jeff Townes, will perform in Constitution Square at 11:30, followed by addresses from Maj. Gen. D. Allen Youngtown, Adjutant General of the Kentucky National Guard; Senior Vice Commander Mike Penny of the Kentucky Veterans of Foreign Wars; and Col. Howard Hunt III, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and grand marshal of the parade.

Hershel McKinney and Charlie Perry will host the remainder of the activities, mixing veteran interviews with musical performances by the Danville High School Choir, Aprile Hunt, First Baptist Men's Chorus, under the direction of Gary Johnson; a monologue by Matt Gordon and McCormack's Church Praise Team, directed by Larry Todd.

The celebration will close 30 minutes after the musical performances with a flag-lowering and wreath ceremony at Weisiger Park.

Anne Winburn, administrative assistant for Heart of Danville, has been coordinating the various groups and speakers, and said there still is time for groups who want to participate in the parade to sign up.

"It's a great way to spend a Saturday, and we hope the community will come out and show its appreciation and support for all our veterans who make our American way of life possible," said Peek.

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