“As we express our gratitude we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy
After this quote, one may find a commentary on Veterans Day inappropriate. But in a country where national holidays often amount to mere days away from school and work, it would be a great tragedy not to shed light on what one local organization does to ensure that Veterans Day’s true purpose never goes unnoticed.
Vet Events Tally, known simply as “V.E.T. Inc.”, works year around to bring downtown Tallahassee a parade worthy of the celebration at hand. Luckily, V.E.T. Inc. does not work alone. The non-profit corporation receives help from Leon County, the City of Tallahassee, and countless others in our community. While the parade celebrates all veterans, the goal of V.E.T. Inc. is to bring together veterans living in the Big Bend – Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, and Wakulla Counties.
This year’s parade was lively and attendance filled both sides of Monroe Street from the corner of Monroe and Tennessee (the parade’s start) to the Capitol building (the parade’s end). Cheers reverberated downtown as parade favorites passed by, such as motorcycles, horses, bagpipe players, college and high school bands and dancers, ROTC and JROTC groups, and of course, many beloved veterans. But for all the parade offered this year, it’s the parade’s history, which is especially inspiring.
Like many things, the Veterans Day Parade has had to face trials. In year’s past, the parade took place on Adams St, where limited space constrained the number of participants and attendees. While on Adams St, the parade did not draw spectacles such as Florida A&M University’s Marching 100 and Florida State University’s Marching Chiefs, who both partake in the parade today. However after rain led to the parade’s cancelling in 2009, the parade was reborn to become closer to what it is today.
Proving that sometimes things need to get worse before they get better, V.E.T. Inc. was created after the rain cancellation to improve the parade, where attendance had fallen to less than 2,000 in 2009. V.E.T. Inc. helped return the parade to Monroe St the following year (2010), and attendance rebounded to a staggering 30,000. That is an increase of 1,400%. Today, V.E.T. Inc. calls the rain cancellation the best thing to happen to the Veterans Day Parade.
Despite this evident success, the parade was not without its complaints. As a float for the “Sons of Confederate Veterans” passed by, the air seemed to dissipate, and you could no longer hear the unwavering cheers while participants of the “Sons of Confederate Veterans” float passed out mini-confederate flags.
I asked a man beside me what he thought of the “Sons of Confederate Veterans” float. He responded, “It’s not appropriate. While there are people who reenact the Civil War for historic purposes, people are not going to get that message today. Today, we are all Americans.”
One thing remains certain about the history of the Veteran’s Day Parade: adversity brings opportunities, and veterans rise to opportunities.
Because of all these things, the mission of V.E.T. Inc. has never been more needed. The story of the Veterans Day Parade in Tallahassee is one that we should all aim to personify. We all face challenges. Sometimes like the veteran, our sacrifices go unnoticed. And sometimes, just as the soldier is connected to the politics of his or her work, so also we are entangled in a world that grows evermore political. Today, let us face the world as a soldier does, drill after drill, march after march, and thankful of any praise that comes our way, though we do not require it.
“The highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”