The Daily Gamecock

Downtown parade commends veterans, attracts politicians

Republican presidential candidates Bachmann, Perry in attendance

The large hordes— from retired soldiers with decorated uniforms to jubilant children chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” — crowded down Sumter Street on a brisk, clear-sky Friday to recognize the 33rd Annual Veterans Day Parade.

To commemorate those who served in our nation’s wars, a variety of bands played songs while multiple groups of marching soldiers recited their own patriotic hymns.

Darryl Jumper of Columbia, who was in the Marine Corps for eight years and fought in the Gulf War, said it is an honor to be a veteran who served in a war. Jumper came out “to give back to all the fellow veterans who have served past and present,” he said.

Jerry Kelly served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. To him, serving in a war was just a responsibility.

“It’s just a job I do,” Kelly said. “I made an oath to serve my country so I had to fulfill it.

“[The Veterans Day Parade] is a small way to honor the ones who were not here to be able to see this.”

While a Green Berets helicopter zigzagged over the sight, people gazed at the Marine Corps League, Chapin High School students, K-9 War Dogs, Tuskegee Airmen and a small fleet of military and police vehicles — just some of the parade’s features.

Even though her daughter who was in the Air Force for nine years didn’t serve in a war, Jacqueline Radical said that Veterans Day celebrates the people out there trying to take care of the people back home.

“Just letting them know we appreciate it even though I don’t have anything to do with it,” she said.

Republican presidential candidates Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry were also part of the parade.

South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson accompanied Bachmann in saying hello to Columbia while Perry was on his own, waving and greeting the public.

“I think it can’t hurt his image,” said Columbia resident Vernon Turner of Perry’s visit to Columbia.

But he acknowledged Perry lacks debating skills.

“When he talks, he has a hard time getting across what he means,” Turner said.

Even Occupy Columbia protester Elaine Cooper came out to support the veterans, saying that some veterans are part of their cause.

“They have a banner that says ‘Occupy Columbia Veterans,’” she said. “There’s a tremendous amount of veterans who are unemployed, don’t have enough benefits or are living in their cars.”