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Turnout strong for 2023 Veterans Day Parade in downtown Enid

Enid News & Eagle - 11/13/2023

Nov. 11—R.D. Lawrence and H.B. Evans sat in a borrowed pickup Saturday morning in downtown Enid and thought about the past ... It was a different world, in the 1940s, they said. It was a time when everyone was asked to sacrifice, and everyone did, and many times soldiers gave it all.

"Oh boy, it means a lot. I'm alive," Evans said when asked what he thought of being chosen the co-grand marshal of the 2023 Veterans Day Parade. "You bet. You bet. And there's a lot of times I didn't think I would be ..."

Both he and his co-grand marshal Lawrence were shot down at different times during fighting in the European Theater during WWII. Evans was eventually led to U.S. forces through the French underground, but Lawrence spent nearly a year as a prisoner of war.

It wasn't all bad, Lawrence said. He didn't have to work, and he played poker from time to time, during which he'd win cigarettes and turn around and lose them the next day.

"And if you done what the Germans told you to do, and go out for roll call every morning and certain times, and if you done that they left you alone," he said.

He said he didn't gain any weight during his time as a prisoner. Meal portions for the entire day would come in a 2.5 gallon bucket, and no one asked what was in it.

They were scared, he said, to a certain extent, but they were Air Force, and when you get 25 GIs together they found ways to make it through. It's a camaraderie that maybe only tho se who have put on a uniform can begin to understand.

Today, Lawrence said, being at the front of the parade to celebrate all veterans is "a great honor," but it's something that anyone who has ever worn a uniform and vowed to defend his or her country and its people is just as deserving to receive.

"You go out there on the street and pick up a GI that's been in service before: He's just as worthy to be here as I am. ... Back in World War II, it was a total ... everybody was involved, whether it was at home or aircraft factories, fighting, whatever, Everybody was involved, and everybody done something for the cause."

It is that spirit that hundreds came to honor in downtown Enid Saturday morning, with one of the largest attendances parade coordinator Bryan Skaggs said he has seen at at Veterans Day Parade.

The morning started with the singing of the national anthem and a flyover by the A-26 Invader Lady Liberty and two T-38 jets from Vance Air Force Base.

There was plenty of patriotism evident, from the giant flag mounted on top of the Enid Fire Department ladder truck to the tiniest one in the hands of the children standing by the street waiting for the parade sights and sounds and the candy being tossed from the participants.

Ihunanya Oruche and Mason Williams stood at the front of the Enid High School Junior ROTC ranks, waiting for the parade to begin, and talked briefly about what it means to come out to honor the veterans.

"It's a privilege because because they did that for us," Oruche said. "You know? We're doing our part."

Williams said they talk often during Junior ROTC about veterans and their sacrifices, and marching in the parade is a big part of their program.

Enid Noon AMBUCS took over organization of the parade a few years ago, and AM AMBUCS organized the Veterans Day breakfast and assisted with the VIP seating for the veterans, who were designated a special area across from the parade announcers.

"So they have the best seats in the house," Skaggs said, adding anyone who has served in the military is welcome to sit the VIP area.

Skaggs quote

He said they are proud to honor the veterans and hopes the turnout trend for the parade continues.

"It's just something we decide to take on and to honor," he said. "I mean, we got Vance Air Force Base here ... This ought to be the biggest parade in town."

The parade ended a week of activities to honor veterans that started with the grand opening of the Oklahoma Military Exhibit, a collection of military items now located in Oakwood Mall, said Elaine Johns, executive director of Woodring Wall of Honor, which organized the exhibit and many of the events during the weeklong celebration.

Events included a kickoff ceremony, tree-planting event, free luncheon, a concert, perimeter lighting of red, white and blue downtown and a legacy and awards ceremony.

Skaggs quote "It's just something we decide to take on and to honor. I mean, we got Vance Air Force Base here ... This ought to be the biggest parade in town." — Bryan Skaggs, Enid Police Chief and parade organizer for Enid Noon AMBUCS {related_content_uuid}d1eafff0-d928-4699-a603-6d0aac4256ac{/related_content_uuid}

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