COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Veterans across the Chattahoochee Valley filled the streets of Phenix City and Columbus on Saturday morning to celebrate the 6th Annual Tri-City Veterans Day parade.
The parade is one of several celebrations leading up to Veterans Day on Nov.11. Columbuss spent the last 50 years without a Veterans Day parade, and a few soldiers at the event said they're proud to see how far Columbus and its surrounding cities have come.
"This is the place to be a veteran," Sam Nelson, the chairman of the Chattahoochee Valley Veterans Council said. "It's the best place to be a veteran in the United States of America."
Nelson said he's been attending the annual Veterans Day Parade since it kicked off six years ago.
"This parade shows me the times have changed," Nelson said. "When I was a young man, many people acted rude towards soldiers. I've been in parades where people threw stuff at us. That's not happening anymore, and it's amazing to see people waving their flags and cheering. Things have changed. People need to understand that soldiers are not paid for what they do, they are paid for what they are willing to do."
Carl McKinney, a veteran who served during the Vietnam era also said soldiers and veterans were not treated with respect in the 60's and the 70's.
"The Columbus area was not any different from other places many years ago," McKinney said. "It was a hard place to be. I remember people spitting on soldiers and veterans wearing uniforms when I came back from Vietnam. Now, things have changed for the better. If you have anything that has veterans on it, people will come up to you and thank you. It helps me take pride in what I did, pride in what the soldiers are doing now, and pride in the people that truly understand it."
About 160 units participated in the parade, and about 2,000 people on both sides of the Chattahoochee River waved several hundreds of flags to cheer and salute our soldiers.
Nelson says this is the biggest Veterans Day parade he has seen so far, and the enthusiasm makes him proud to be a veteran.
"It makes me feel like a million dollars," Nelson said. "I'm telling you, there was a day when people didn't wave their flags and there was a day when people weren't happy to see a veterans coming down the street. That's changed and it means the world to me that I can see this happen in my lifetime."