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Training the next generation towards honor, Veterans Day

Sep 21 2019
Courier News

Through the efforts of the Salute to Freedom Task Force and other local veterans organizations, the Russellville community has been a strong example in the state for recognizing and honoring veterans during Veterans Day activities each year. Our annual Veterans Day Parade has grown to become one of the largest in the state.

The Celebration of Veterans event at the Russellville High School Center for the Arts, and the Russellville Veterans Day Parade will both take place on Veterans Day, Monday, Nov. 11.

The celebration begins with a breakfast for veterans and their families at 8 a.m., followed by the assembly program at 9 a.m. The parade begins at 4 p.m. and will proceed down West Main Street through downtown Russellville.

The theme for this year’s parade is “Training the next generation toward honor.” The emphasis is meant to engage more children, youth and younger adults in our community traditions for honoring veterans, so that these traditions continue for decades to come.

Schools, community groups, civic organizations, churches and other associations are encouraged to enter the parade in support of veterans and to include children and youth in their participation.

To date, more than 30 entries have already been received. The marching bands of Arkansas Tech University, Russellville High School and Russellville Junior High School will be featured, as well as the marching battalion of the Junior ROTC program of Russellville High School.

Len Cotton of Dardanelle has been selected as our 2019 Grand Marshal for the parade. Father of U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, Len served with the Army’s 4th Infantry Division during the Vietnam War, and earned the Combat Infantry Badge.

The business community is being encouraged to take a more active and direct role in Veterans Day activities and events. A new program called the Freedom League, appeals to area businesses and industry to become Patriot Partners.

The program calls for involvement at three levels. First, to participate as an entry to the parade; second, to hold special recognition for their staff-related veterans; and third, to promote an employee donation/company-matching campaign to raise support for the completion of the Veterans Memorial Park adjacent to Bona Dea Trails in Russellville.

Construction for the park began with a ground-breaking ceremony on Sept. 15, 2015, by the River Valley Veterans Coalition. Since that time, a covered pavilion has been completed suitable for staging community presentations, events and historical displays about American military campaigns and war eras; the Walk of Honor displaying granite markers installed by family members to recognize and honor their loved ones who have served or are presently serving our nation in the military; and a central flag pole where the inaugural flag-raising ceremony was held on Flag Day, June 14, 2019.

One of the “capstones” to the Veterans Memorial Park will be the addition of a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument designed and installed by the Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation. Russellville is one of over 100 communities where such monuments have been erected in 42 states.

The unique black granite four-panel monument will feature two sides; one displaying themes of Homeland, Family, Patriot and Sacrifice; with the other side depicting scenes reflecting our community’s Gold Star Families and their fallen heroes.

The monument is inspired by the vision of Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Hershel “Woody” Williams, who held a kick-off rally in Russellville on March 15 before 125 attendees at Lake Point Conference Center.

The Russellville Veterans Memorial Park, when completed, will be a place where family members and visitors can pause, sit, walk and reflect on the freedoms America enjoys because of the sacrificial service our Veterans have given for our nation.

Many thousands of dollars are needed to finish this exemplary park, making it among the best in the state. The Patriot Partner program of the Freedom League is designed to encourage our business and industrial community to help raise the support necessary to finish our park.

Veterans Administration Secretary Roger Wilkie recently said, “America is best when it takes care of those who have taken care of America.” Training the next generation to continue our community traditions of honoring the brave men and women who have served to protect our nation and freedoms around the world is a worthy calling and task.

Entry to the Russellville Veterans Day Parade is free and a quick and easy online submission form is available at

Humphrey Funeral Service is the major corporate sponsor for the Salute to Freedom Task Force in the Arkansas River Valley. For more information, please call 479-968-4411.