Veterans honored at Centennial Memorial Park
by Brian Anderson
banderson@annistonstar.com
Nov 11, 2013 | 3239 views |  0 comments | 61 61 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Vietnam veteran Rick Robson sits near the Veterans Memorial Wall at Centennial Memorial Park during Veterans Day ceremonies today.  Photo by Bill Wilson.
Vietnam veteran Rick Robson sits near the Veterans Memorial Wall at Centennial Memorial Park during Veterans Day ceremonies today. Photo by Bill Wilson.
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Michael Short told his 7-year-old son Monday morning to make sure that before the day was over to thank a veteran.

He had plenty of opportunities that afternoon when the father and son drove from Munford to catch Anniston’s Veterans Day Parade on Noble Street.

“I want him to understand they’re the reason he has the freedoms he has,” said Short while his son waved at the men and women in military uniforms marching by on Noble Street. “They’re the reason why we’re here today.”

Short and his son were two of hundreds who gathered Monday at Centennial Memorial Park and Noble Street to honor those who served their country. Since 1990, local Vietnam veteran Ken Rollins has organized the annual celebration at the park, which includes a tribute to residents who died in foreign wars and the family members they left behind.

“I want people to remember we can’t celebrate today without remembering those who couldn’t be here today to be honored as veterans,” Rollins said. “It’s important that they are not forgotten.”

Members of the Calhoun County Commission as well as several mayors from the county’s cities, were in attendance at the ceremony.

Today’s ceremony also doubled as an informal fundraiser for Centennial Memorial Park, which has become a pet project of Rollins’. Since 1990, Rollins has worked to bring monuments to the park listing the name of every Alabamian who died overseas in a war. Currently, Rollins is trying to bring monuments recognizing Alabama service men and women who died in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as monuments for Alabama police and firefighters who died in the line of duty.

“But we need money to do that,” Rollins said during the ceremony. “So we’ll probably try and hit you up for that today.”

One of the ways the park is raising money for the police memorial is through a new Alabama license plate honoring law enforcement. Oxford police Chief Bill Partridge came up with the design of the plate, which will be available next month throughout the state. Ninety percent of the money for the $50 plates goes to the monument fund, which Partridge hopes to be completed by 2016.

“I think that would be a fitting tribute to the men and women in law enforcement who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving their communities,” Partridge said.

Mike Abrams, the president of the Calhoun County Veterans Organization, said the parade on Noble Street in its current iteration dates back just five years, but has a longer tradition in the city. The organization was formed with the sole purpose of bringing back the popular event.

“There’s nothing we can do to give them enough recognition for what they’ve done,” Abrams said about the parade. “But we try to send the message that in our community, they are appreciated.”

This year’s parade’s honor guards included two local veterans who earned the Purple Heart; Wilburn Smallwood in World War II, and Calvin Cunningham in the Korean War.

Justin Stephens, a veteran from Ohatchee, said every year he brings his son, Kalib, to the parade. While he said it’s not easy to explain to a 5-year-old the value and importance Veterans Day has, he said he tries to tell his son why respecting and honoring veterans is vital.

“It’s important to me every year to see him understand more and more,” Stephens said. “I try to explain to him the reason we can come here and have fun is because of what they did.”

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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