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Throngs greet marchers
Nov 13, 2012 4:00 pm
Marchers converged at Lebanon Square to cheers, applause and waving American flags on Sunday.
The marchers arrived from the four cardinal directions – north, south, east and west – as a tribute to America’s Fallen Soldiers.
“Patriotism is alive and well in America,” said Jim Retzke, president of the Fallen Soldiers March organization. “I thought it was an excellent turnout.”
Volunteers each marched 30 miles, beginning at 5 a.m. Sunday in Nashville, Murfreesboro, Gordonsville or Westmoreland. The four groups of marchers converged at the Square at 5 p.m., their arrivals announced by throngs of Patriot Riders, police and fire vehicles.
“We accomplished a major objective in our mission, which is to inspire patriotism and to teach it to our children,” said Retzke.
Children joined marchers in the final few miles, and children and teenagers sang along to songs such as “America” and “God Bless the U.S.A.”
Jordan Vanatta performed a song he had written for the occasion.
“The passion that young man has…It just resounds,” said Retzke.
Vietnam veteran Ray Preuitt addressed the audience.
“I was born six months before the attack on Pearl Harbor,” said Preuitt, “I can remember seeing a war poster of a soldier in combat gear, rifle at the ready. Behind him is a woman dressed as a typical housewife. The caption was, ‘They also serve who stand and wait.’ Those who had to wait for their loved one to came home to them. Wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. Hoping only to see their soldier once again and all the time fearing the telegram that might announce his death. We've always wished they could all come home safe and sound. Thankfully most do. But some come home missing limbs, scarred from burns and tortured with a mind that can't forget the horror they've been through. We must always support them any way we can. And so we do here today. From the four cardinal directions, our marchers come. Tired and weary, muscles screaming for relief, marchers from our four neighboring communities have come here to our fair city all for one purpose: to raise money to help our fallen soldiers -- for we are all one family. A family of like-minded Americans who come to the aid of their brothers and sisters when they're down and hurting.”
Preuitt, a Navy veteran, was among the first to deploy to Vietnam, according to Retzke.
Donations collected during Sunday’s event will be used to purchase service dogs for wounded veterans. These service dogs, which can help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, physical disabilities, vision impairments and hearing impairments, can cost between $10,000 and $30,000 each.
Organizers have not yet determined the total amount raised Sunday, but the community’s response was enough to deem the event a success.
“It was an incredible event,” said Retzke.
He emphasized, though, that the event was not about the organizers or the marchers.
“This is not about us,” said Retzke. “This is about honoring our veterans, fallen soldiers and wounded soldiers.
For more information, visit fallensoldiersmarch.com.
Staff writer Sara McManamy-Johnson can be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 16 or firstname.lastname@example.org.