CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Clarksville’s third annual Welcome Home Veterans parade makes its way 10 a.m. Sept. 16 through Clarksville’s historic downtown, beginning at First Baptist Church and proceeding to the Montgomery County Courthouse.
Vietnam POW Bill Robinson and Retired Army Veteran Ernesto Rodriguez will serve as parade Grand Marshalls.
Robinson was captured on Sept. 20, 1965 while his team attempted to rescue a downed pilot in North Vietnam. He was held for seven years and five months, making him the longest-held enlisted man in U.S. military history.
Rodriguez, a retired local 15-year Army veteran, walked to California to bring awareness to Post Traumatic Stress and suicide within the veteran community. Having served through four deployments, he lost many friends who were fighting, not against an external physical enemy, but an internal one. When he found himself going down that same road, he finally felt it was time to take action. He began his 2,200 mile journey from Clarksville to Los Angeles on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2016.
Veterans can register to be in the parade at www.welcomehomeveteranscelebration.com. Applications are also available online for floats and other parade participants.
The parade will feature local ROTC groups, high school marching bands and the 101st Airborne Division Band and Color Guard.
Robinson is also speaking at a luncheon in honor of National POW/MIA Remembrance Day 11 a.m. Sept. 15 at the Wilma Rudolph Event Center, 1190 Hwy. 48. Luncheon tickets are $22 and available at www.welcomehomeveteranscelebration.com.
The parade and luncheon are part of a five-day Welcome Home Celebration organized by Visit Clarksville and the Montgomery County Veterans Coalition. The week’s event is sponsored by AARP and several other local businesses. Other activities include:
• The American Traveling Tribute Wall at Beachaven Vineyards and Winery. The Wall will arrive in Clarksville 3 p.m. Sept. 13. A procession will begin at approximately 3:30 p.m. from Appleton Harley Davidson on US 41-A Bypass and proceed down Madison Street to University Blvd. to College Street out to Beachaven, where it will open for public display at noon Thursday, Sept. 14 through 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17.
• Field of Honor – Veterans Tribute flag display will be shown Sept. 14-17 at Beachaven Vineyards and Winery. Tribute flags may be ordered in honor of loved ones at www.welcomehomeveteranscelebration.com, at www.healingfield.org/clarksville17 or by calling 931-647-2331. Flags may be sponsored for $40 and will be tagged with your honoree’s information. Purchased flags will be available for pick up after the event. Net proceeds will benefit veterans’ causes.
• A Wreath Laying and Massing of the Colors will take place at the Wall 3:30 p.m. Sept. 15 in honor of National POW/MIA Remembrance Day.
• The Eyes of Freedom: Lima Company Memorial traveling memorial depicts the fallen Marines and Navy Corpsman of Columbus, Ohio based Lima Company 3/25, one of the most heavily engaged units of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The exhibit will be located at Beachaven Vineyards & Winery, 1100 Dunlop Lane. It will be open for public display noon Thursday, Sept. 14 through 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17. See more at www.eyesoffreedom.org.
• The USS LST 325 will be in Clarksville from Sept. 6-16. This 328-foot-long landing ship tank was built in 1942 and has been restored to its original condition. General admission is $10; children 6-17 is $5 and WWII veterans and active duty military in uniform are free.
• Operation Stand Down – Veterans Festival will be held 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 13-14 at Daymar Institute, 2691 Trenton Road.
• A Remembrance Ceremony at First Baptist Church will take place at First Baptist Church, 435 Madison Street, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14, the eve of National POW/MIA Remembrance Day. This free ceremony is open to the public and will include music, speakers and a time of remembrance.
• Bob Hope Tribute to the Troops will be held 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15. Tickets are $39 and available at www.welcomehomeveteranscelebration.com.
• A Celebration Picnic and Bluegrass at Beachaven will take place 12:30-3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16. Veterans are invited to this complimentary picnic lunch at Beachaven following the parade, but must have a ticket to attend. Tickets will be available from the Visit Clarksville office, 25 Jefferson Street, or by calling 931-647-2331.
• American Pride, a Statler Brothers tribute group, will perform 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16. Veterans can attend free, but will need a ticket. Others may purchase tickets for $25 online at www.welcomehomeveteranscelebration.com.
• AARP members can receive an 18% discount on all ticketed events with the WELCOME50.
To volunteer or participate in any of the activities or events, contact Frances Manzitto by email at email@example.com or call 931-245-4345.