The City of South Charleston is hosting its 55th annual Armed Forces Day Parade at noon Saturday downtown.
Event organizer Bob Anderson said more than 100 military and civilian units have signed up to take part in the parade, but there’s still room for more. To participate, call 304-746-5552.
Anderson said the event is third on the list of the longest-running Armed Forces Day parades in the country. The parade even went on during the Vietnam War, when many towns and cities suspended parades because of the unpopularity of the war, he said.
Parade grand marshal is Ken Samples, a South Charleston native and U.S. Army veteran who served in the Army’s Air Defense Command from 1963 to 1969, manning missile batteries. A special commemorative U.S. Postal Service envelope bearing Samples’ picture will be available during the parade.
Anderson said this year’s parade is dedicated to the Gold Star Mothers, an organization of women who have lost sons or daughters to combat. Shirley White, president of the state chapter of Gold Star Mothers, said eight to 10 mothers are expected to attend.
White said the national organization was formed during World War I. She said a chapter in West Virginia was active in World War II, but with the coming of more peaceful times, the state chapter fell by the wayside.
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 rekindled interest in the organization. White said the state chapter was formed in 2012, and currently has about 15 members.
White said 37 West Virginians have lost their lives serving their country in recent years.
Although black is the traditional color of mourning, White said Gold Star Mothers founders decided long ago to wear white to represent sacrifice.
“Our main purpose is to give comfort to each other,” White said. “No one else understands what we have experienced.”
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