JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville-area residents and visitors paid tribute to the U.S. military, past and present, Saturday at the annual Veterans Day Parade.
The parade stepped off at 11:01 a.m. at EverBank Field and proceeded west on Bay Street. It turned south on Newnan Street and west on Independent Drive/Water Street, and then continued to the Prime Osborn Convention Center. For those who couldn't make it downtown to see it live, the WJXT-4 and WCWJ-17 stations televised the parade, which was hosted by Melanie Lawson and Kent Justice.
“It is truly an honor to celebrate the service of our veterans, not just on Veterans Day, but every day,” Mayor Lenny Curry said. “One of the things that make Jacksonville a great city is its strong ties to the military and its families. It is important for us to recognize and appreciate the tremendous value of service and dedication they bring to our community.”
The parade featured Curry, Sheriff Mike Williams and Bataan Death March survivor Pat Ganio as the parade grand marshal. Also featured in the parade were three of Jacksonville’s oldest veterans Ellis Pope, of the U.S. Navy at age 100; Sollie Mitchell of the U.S. Army at age 99; and William Tomka, of the U.S. Army at age 99. In addition, senior military officials, active-duty and retired military units, veterans groups, local high school marching bands, military organization, decorative floats, giant balloons and JROTC units were included.
Wearing red, white and blue, attendees waved flags, banners and signs.
Twenty-year Army veteran Raymond Bentley told News4Jax he enjoyed feeling a sense of togetherness as he watched the floats and flags move down Independent Drive.
"People of all backgrounds just coming together for at least this one occasion -- It can be done," Bentley said.
While the parade made its way through downtown, veterans Christian Meredith and Jordan Sprague were honored with scholarships at the courtyard of the Jacksonville Landing. The money was raised by Combat2College, North Florida Medical Center and the Law Offices of John Phillips.
Presenting sponsor Ron Sholes said he's proud his law firm can be a part of the parade.
“As a law firm of military veterans, we take tremendous pride in the Veterans Day Parade,” Sholes said.
For more information, visit www.JaxVeteransDayParade.com or call 904-630-3690.