Cool to be 'new'

LL Cool J

Photo by Dave Munday

Alvin Nelson, grand marshal of the Veterans Day parade in downtown Charleston Sunday.

It was a valiant effort by a young military volunteer -- a contemporary demonstration of the spirit that prompted hundreds to wave little American flags during Charleston's Veterans Day parade Sunday afternoon.

Senior Airman Evette Washington of Charleston's 315th Airlift Wing was determined to walk the parade route from the Market to Colonial Lake encased in an 8-foot inflatable Air Force uniform.

"She insisted she walk," said Capt. Wayne Capps, the airlift wing's public affairs chief, who walked beside her behind the float.

Shuffle was more like it, as it turned out. Those big inflatable feet kept turning under, and it had to be hot inside the plastic.

She started out strong, heading down East Bay Street waving to spectators who were applauding her effort. But before reaching Broad Street she had to take a break.

Unfortunately, there was no way she could climb onto the float. Capps tipped her over and slid her into the back of a pickup truck, after a couple of tries.

Washington, a Virginia Beach native who has been in the Air Force for a year and a half, was one of more than 800 who participated in Sunday's parade, according to estimates from the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, which organized the parade. It started with a low-flying C-17 swooping south down Broad Street.

The grand marshal, riding in a vintage World War II green Jeep behind the flags, was Alvin Nelson, a World War II B-17 pilot who was shot down over Germany. He spent 13 months in captivity before being freed. Then he served another 20 years in the military.

Larry and Mary Eustace of James Island stood on East Bay Street waving little American flags at the participants. Occasionally, they would call out, "Thank you for serving."

"We just came to recognize the veterans who have served their country to make it free," Larry Eustace said. "That's what it's all about."

Veterans Day is Friday.