Nov. 11, 2004 Veterans Drive was filled with the sound of marching bands Thursday afternoon as students from St. Thomas and St. John, led by members of the V.I. National Guard, paid tribute to the territory's veterans in the annual Veterans Day Parade.
The parade began promptly at 2 p.m., making its way from the Addelita Cancryn Junior High School along Veterans Drive, to the Emancipation Garden, where a solemn ceremony took place in honor of the war heroes.
Many onlookers lined the street, cheering the young people along. Others, prepared with chairs and umbrellas, gathered at the park to take part in the ceremony.
Lesmore Howard, member of the American Legion Patrick U. George Post #90, welcomed the crowd and thanked them for participating in this day of remembrance.
"Right now, there are soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq that we might enjoy our freedoms," Howard said. "Let's not forget these men and women who are risking their lives like many before them."
Hubert Raimer, commander of the American Legion Post #90, read a proclamation by President George W. Bush to the crowd.
Ornette Creque, member of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit #90, read from a proclamation written by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull. Turnbull, who has been in Washington, D.C., this week for meetings on the Economic Development Commission program, was absent from the proceedings.
The keynote speaker for the event was Col. Eddy Charles of the National Guard. Charles also serves as the drug policy adviser to the governor and has oversight of the Narcotics Strike Force.
Speaking to the veterans present, Charles said, "You are an untapped resource."
Charles urged the territory's veterans to take advantage of the resources available to them such as education opportunities and micro-loans to start businesses.
"You are not taking advantage of the benefits that are available to you," Charles said. "Wake up. Take advantage of these benefits."
Sen. Lorraine Berry also addressed the group on behalf of the 25th Legislature. Berry reminded the audience of the important role women and Virgin Islanders have played in the armed forces.
"Our people have written glorious pages in the history of military service," Berry said. "Virgin Islanders have fought in every major conflict in the last nine decades."
The newest generation of veterans was introduced and welcomed to the National Guard, men and women from the territory who had recently served the country in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
They proudly stood before the crowd in uniform while Maj. Gen. Cleave McBean spoke of their accomplishments. As the members of the V.I. National Guard 73rd Army Band solemnly played a tune in their honor, the rain began to fall, slowly disbursing the crowd which had gathered to pay tribute to its local heroes.
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