Russellville prepares for Veterans Day observance
By Tyler Hargett for the FCT
When thinking of November, one might focus on Thanksgiving or the presidential election.
However, with collaboration from the Historic Roxy Theater, Russellville High School, the American Legion and other community members, Russellville will commemorate another special day, a day to honor those who made sacrifices to serve their country: Veterans Day.
The annual American Legion Veterans’ Day Parade is returning to Russellville Nov. 6, and this year hopes to be better than ever. With a parade, veterans’ reception, and a special screening of the film “Unbroken,” Sunday will certainly stand out.
Those who wish to participate in the parade should arrive at the A.W. Todd Center at 1:30 p.m., with the parade to begin at 2 p.m. The Russellville Police Department will be providing military trucks, while various donors will also be providing antique cars, all for the veterans to ride in.
The parade will depart the Todd Center and go by Big Star to pick up the band, fire trucks and other participants. From there, it will go up Jackson Avenue, turn around on Washington Avenue and come back to the center.
For those who are going to be in the parade, family members are allowed to ride with them. Participants are welcome to bring an old car to ride in, and a sign can be put on the door. Four-wheelers and motorcycles are also welcome.
To be in the parade, contact Grant Atkins ahead of time at 256-332-2332.
After the parade, the VFW will be hosting a reception at the A.W. Todd Center. Local veterans’ families will help provide light snacks and drinks. And the program will begin with a flag ceremony, which will then be followed by speeches and awards. The Franklin County Junior Leaders will serve the veterans. The Franklin County Police Officer and Firefighter of the Year will also be announced.
For more information about the reception, contact Bill Jackson at 256-668-9040.
Following the reception, the Roxy has been reserved for a special showing of the 2014 war drama “Unbroken.” Two groups from Russellville High School have teamed up to make this possible: the American History Honors Club (sponsored by history teacher Kim Burney) and the JROTC (sponsored by Lt. Col. Norman Lier).
Burney credited her history club members for coming up with the idea.
“They asked me, ‘Mrs. Burney, is there something that we could do as a club project?'” she said. “And we started thinking about what would be something that would be giving back to our own community.”
She said the JROTC and AH Honors Club’s goals are similar, including civic duty, patriotism, responsibility and citizenship, which led them to partnering up for the event. Along with the movie, Lier will have a display of war memorabilia collected by his father, who served in the Korean War, set up inside the theater.
“It will include uniform items, patches, letters, some rifles and bayonets from the United States, Germany and Japan, as well as samurai swords,” he said.
The movie will be shown at 3:30 p.m. Admission for veterans will be free, while general admission will be $5.
The movie is based on the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner-turned-WWII bombardier who, after surviving a plane crash and over a month adrift on the Pacific Ocean, was found by a Japanese patrol boat and made a prisoner of war for years.
“The main character is a character that I think we can all learn from,” Burney said. “He’s a man of strength, a man of courage, and he understands how hope and forgiveness can take you a long way in life.”
In order to get permission to show the movie with charged admission, Burney had to contact the film’s studio. It ended up costing about $225 to get the rights – money raised by the history club.
Barney said students made the tickets, did some of the publicity and presided over the planning. Some of the elementary students have even designed thank you cards for veterans.
“It’s been a student-led endeavor, with advice from Col. Lier and me. I am really proud of my students and their commitment to serve the community,” Burney said.
Club member Jarrod Lasseter has not seen the movie but plans on seeing it at the Roxy.
“A lot of people watch a movie and see the shooting and action and say, ‘Oh, that’s a cool movie,'” he said. “But you don’t have your morals with it. On Veterans Day, when you have the very people who have gone through this and seen this, it’s that much more (compelling).”
Burney and Lier both said they hope everyone who comes will walk out with pride for their country and love and respect for veterans.
“Russellville and the surrounding area is full of heroes,” said Lier. “Everyone who stopped what they were doing with their civilian life, put a uniform on, and went off and served honorably, whether they were in a major conflict or not, they are an American hero.”
For more information or to express interest in attending, visit the Facebook event page, titled “Celebrate Our Veterans.”