A group of veterans dropped out of the Charleston Veterans Day Parade on Sunday because the procession was led by motorcycles instead of the military honor guard.
"I don't think that's the image we want," said Stephen Riggs of West Ashley, a former Army sergeant who had planned to drive a 1942 Ford Army Jeep pulling a 37 mm antitank gun.
"Military uniforms should lead the Veterans Day parade," he said Monday. "What is it we're trying to show? Would I want my grandkids at that parade to see guys in leather and ponytails with flags waving off the back? It is a dignity issue."
Riggs and other members of the Military Vehicle Collectors of South Carolina pulled about 20 historical military vehicles out of the parade when they learned the color guard would not be leading it. Publicity for the parade highlighted the vehicles, which includes a 1945 Jeep owned by Gen. George Patton's grandson.
Veterans on motorcycles have led the parade for the past three years, according to Tonya Lobbestael, public affairs officer for the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, which organizes the parade.
Part of the reason for putting the motorcycles out front is because the riders also serve a meal at the medical center after the parade, so it's natural they get a head start, she said. They're considered an unofficial kickoff to the parade, with the official procession starting with the color guard behind them, she said.
Riggs objected this year while the parade was being planned, and his group threatened to withdraw. Organizers then assured him the color guard would lead the parade this year, he said. Sunday morning, the color guard was listed ahead of the motorcycles on the printout that was given to participants. But during the lineup, the color guard was put behind the motorcycles again.
It was not clear Monday who was responsible for the change.
Lobbestael said organizers planned to lead with the color guard as requested, but police who were directing the entries put the motorcycles in front.
Charleston police officers were directing the lineup but had nothing to do with any lineup change, Public Information Officer Charles Francis said.
Lobbestael said more than 100 groups participated, and members of Riggs' group were the only ones to complain.
"We've received many compliments from service organizations and veterans who were very pleased," she said.
Protocol dictates only that an American flag lead the parade, she said.
The flag was carried by Jim Shumard of Summerville, a retired Air Force colonel with the Charleston chapter of the Star Riders, who rode out front on his Yamaha Road Star.
"I understand how some people feel, but it breaks my heart that we've got somebody complaining and upset," he said. "I don't have a ponytail. I don't even have a mustache."
Veterans Day Events
Various Veterans Day activities are planned around the Lowcountry for the Thursday holiday. Among them:
North charleston: The city's Veterans Day celebration will start at 10:30 a.m. at Park Circle and will be followed by
lunch. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has selected North Charleston as a regional host site for this year's Veterans Day
observances. Each year, the VA honors selected cities as regional host sites. There are only 18 awarded in the nation this year. This
year's lunch will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Felix C. Davis Community Center. Guest speaker will be Gen. James
Livingston, one of 87 surviving Medal of Honor recipients.
Charleston: The African American Historical Alliance will hold a Veterans Day commemoration at 10:30 a.m. in
honor of U.S. Navy veteran Henry Benjamin Noisette. It will be held at the Friendly and Charitable Society Cemetery, near the corner
of Mechanic and Oceanic streets in Charleston.
Noisette, a Charleston native, was in action against Confederate batteries aboard the USS Huron in the Stono River during the war.
The hour-long program will feature the unveiling of a Civil War veterans marker by his descendents.
Patriots Point: A meet-and-greet with veterans and museum volunteers on board the carrier Yorktown will be held 10
a.m.-2 p.m. Visitation is free of charge for veterans and active-duty military. Standard costs apply for others.
A series of portraits by local photographers of veterans who have served, or serve today on the Yorktown, will be on display. These
veterans are from the World War II through the Vietnam War eras.
James Island: The Lowcountry Senior Center Chorus pays tribute with favorite patriotic songs, 11:30 a.m.-12:30
p.m. The Lowcountry Senior Center, 865 Riverland Drive next to James Island County Park, call 762-9555. Free. Seating is limited.
Moncks Corner: The town will hold its Veterans Day Parade at 10:15 a.m. Parade starts at the Train Depot and
follows Main Street. A ceremony at the new Veterans Memorial will be at 11 a.m. Call 899-4708 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Television: South Carolina Educational Television will air a new documentary, "South Carolinians in World War
II: A Time to Fight" premiering at 9 p.m. with Episode One.
The documentary begins with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and follows 22 South Carolina veterans through training at The
Citadel and Fort Jackson and into the deserts of North Africa and skies over Europe. The second and third episodes will air in 2011.
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