Rain or shine, thousands of people will line Main Street on Saturday morning for southern Illinois' biggest salute to veterans.
For the 18th straight year, veterans and first responders across the region will fill the streets of Marion from the junior high school to the Williamson County Fairgrounds, a celebration to honor their service.
And just days before the event, organizer Ed Davis is saying what he always says: Veterans are still welcome to become a part of the parade.
"With the 18th annual Veterans on Parade just days away, some veterans invariably will call me to ask if it's not too late to get into the parade," Davis says. "I respond in the same way that I have over the past 17 years, which is simply, it's never too late for veterans to be a part of their parade.
"You can call me up just before the parade starts and I will have a spot for you," he emphasized.
Davis said Veterans on Parade was conceived to allow family, friends, neighbors and the community to recognize those men and women who gave their lives, or part of their lives, to secure the many freedoms Americans have, "that some of us, unfortunately, take for granted."
Veterans on Parade considers all first responders to be worthy of this parade too, whether they served in the armed forces or not.
Davis said veterans and first responders can have similar mental health issues, and there are disturbing numbers of homeless or suicidal veterans and police officers.
"Our police officers are facing identical issues and situations, while doing their best to protect everyone in our communities," Davis said.
"There is much to be done to assist our veterans and first responders, but one sure way is to come out and be a part of something that is good and patriotic in southern Illinois," he added. "If you are a veteran or first responder, come out and either march or ride with your brothers and sisters."
Davis also has a message for southern Illinoisans.
"To all you southern Illinoisans who would like to do something grand on a Saturday morning, come out and show your area heroes how much you appreciate the sacrifices they made and continue to make each and every day," Davis said. "The waving of a hand, or a flag, a smile along with a simple thank you, or even a salute to those passing by will go a long way in sending the kind of message that will resonate long after the parade passes by ... for not only your heroes but for you too!"
Any veteran or first responder wishing to register -- and anyone else wishing to donate to this year's parade or next year's -- should contact Ed Davis via email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or call (314) 375-7170 (home) or (618) 967-9415 (cell). Marion's 18th-annual Veterans on Parade will step off at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 10, from Marion Junior High School, and head east to the Williamson County Fairgrounds for a ceremony.
Participants who plan on walking the parade should assemble no later than 9:15 a.m. at Marion Junior High School on Main Street.
Participants who would prefer to ride should assemble by 9:15 a.m. at Marion High School on Carbon Street.