Columbia’s Veterans Day parade shut down Sumter Street on Friday morning. (Photos by Claire Carter/Carolina News and Reporter)
Vietnam War veterans served as grand marshals for Columbia’s 45th annual Veterans Day parade on Friday, marking the 50th anniversary of the end of the war.
Peter Krawczyk served in the United States Navy from 1971 through 1982 and said it felt good to see Vietnam veterans appreciated and honored.
“We weren’t always appreciated after the Vietnam War,” Krawczyk said. “And I, with a lot of service members, (were) spit on and, and called trash, trashy names and things like that. … It seems like things have improved. It’s good to see that.”
Hundreds of Midlands residents, schoolchildren, high school band members and Junior ROTC members lined Sumter Street or marched in the parade marking the Saturday holiday.
The Vietnam vets were joined by various other veteran organizations, including one honoring the Doolittle Raiders. The Raiders, who formed in Columbia, bombed Tokyo, Japan, in 1943 – 80 years ago – in retaliation for the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1942.
Richard Peterson works with the Doolittle Raiders Remembrance Project and said that seeing all the veterans with a variety of military experiences show up is an emotional event for him.
“They’re still giving back to the country that they defended,” Peterson said. “And we’re really here to honor the ultimate sacrifice of the men that aren’t here because they’re the true heroes.”
Peterson said he wasn’t able to serve in the military because of a broken leg, but he said the camaraderie makes him feel proud to be an American.
Larry Mason, a U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Division veteran, drove the Doolittle Raiders’ fire truck with Peterson.
Mason said the best part of the day were the reunions.
“It’s a good feeling that all the old veterans show up and you get to go out and meet some of the guys you knew years ago,” Mason said.
Alongside Vietnam veterans, various Junior ROTC programs from across the Midlands marched in the parade.
“I like the idea that there are kids willing to think about the service,” Young said.
Krawcyzk and fellow Navy veteran Ed Young said seeing all the Junior ROTC programs added a special touch to the day.
“Proud to see so many of the kids in the ROTC nowadays,” Krawcyzk added.