Veterans honored during annual ‘Proud to be an American’ Parade
By J.J. Kindred | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
World War II veterans Joe Humphrey and Sam Hardman have been through a lot and have seen a lot.
As co-grand marshals for the 2012 “Proud to be an American” Parade, they and other military veterans have a lot to be thankful for.
The parade, held Sunday afternoon in downtown Maryville and in its fourth year, featured many civic groups and organizations that marched downtown on Court Street with many supporters cheering for them, including:
• Disabled American Veterans Blount County Chapter 76;
• Tennessee State Veterans Home
• American Legion Post 13
• Sons of American Legion Squadron 13
• Women Marines Association
• Appearances by local and state officials, including Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell, Maryville Mayor Tony Taylor, State Sen. Doug Overbey, State Rep. Art Swann and State Rep. Bob Ramsey
• Daughters of the American Revolution
• American Red Cross
• VFW Post 5154
• Kerbela Shriners of Knoxville
• The Smoky Mountain Model A Club, featuring 10 Ford Model A cars
• Foothills Antique Tractor and Engine Club, featuring 20 antique tractors
• Gold Star and Blue Star Mothers
“It means a whole lot to me to be honored,” said Humphrey, 91, who served from 1941 to 1945 in France and also fought during the Battle of the Bulge, where he was awarded the Silver Star for his service.
In 1945, two ammunition trucks, containing roughly 400 rounds of explosives, were ignited by enemy artillery fire. Humphrey was among those who rushed in to repair a nearby immobilized gasoline truck. With exploding shells, from the enemy and the burning trucks, Humphrey helped repair the gasoline truck’s front wheels and brake system so that it could be safely removed.
“I saw some hard things,” Humphrey said. “There were a few of us that went through (the war), and only a few of us made it back.”
After his service, Humphrey worked for the AlCOA plant for three years, then went into the carpentry business. He worked for Blount County Schools in the maintenance department for 22 years before retiring.
“I wouldn’t want to go through it again,” Humphrey said, “but I did what I had to do.”
Bethany Brown, the parade’s event director, said the parade is an opportunity for people to express their appreciation to veterans and military personnel.
She said the parade was founded based on an idea from a Blount County woman whose son was serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“She wanted to do something to give back and focus her attention while her son was serving overseas,” Brown said. “She thought about the idea to give back to veterans while they’re serving.”
Brown gave credit to local businesses, community and veterans organizations for donating their time to the parade’s success. She said organizers also use tools such as regular mail, social media such as Facebook and local media outlets to get the word out.
The parade has been scheduled around Flag Day, in an effort to highlight the American flag’s importance to the military.
“The enthusiasm has been pretty good, but we lost a little bit today because of the weather,” Brown said. “Everyone who planned on coming has shown up. People are just a bit excited.
“The parade is different from a Memorial Day celebration because it remembers those who have gone on,” Brown continued. “The Fourth of July is all about fireworks, but this is about America as a whole. We want to remember (troops) all year long, and what the flag stands for and how important that is.”
Hardman, 94, served as a Grand Marshal during last year’s parade and was called back for the honor again.
“You can’t imagine how much this means to World War II veterans who got no welcome home when their service was over,” said Hardman, who served in World War II from 1942 to 1946. “I went to work in the Army my first year of service, and I helped set up a military mission for the Italian army. I wasn’t in combat, but I served my country in what I had do and I did what I was asked to do.”
Hardman served as an office manager after his service ended.
“I was one of the fortunate ones to get a job,” he said. “I’m from Georgia and (the company) called me asked me and would I go to Knoxville. I didn’t have time to buy civilian clothes. I came to Knoxville in 1946 same month I was discharged. My mom saved enough money to get me a business course. I give her all the credit for keeping me out of combat.”