ASHEBORO — Gary Edwards was determined he wasn’t going to miss a Veterans Day Parade, even though he’d just been released from the hospital.
Sure enough, Edwards was helping to carry the immense American flag from Church Street, down Sunset Avenue, across Fayetteville to Worth. If he was feeling any discomfort, it didn’t show on his determined face.
As a member of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division in the early ’60s, Edwards recalls being on alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. He said he was in NATO communications and intelligence.
Since his discharge, Edwards has been heavily involved with the American Legion and military events. That includes the Veterans Day Parade.
The 81-year-old has been in every Veterans Day Parade since its origins in the late 1980s. In fact, he was commander of American Legion Post 45 when he and others were instrumental in the parade’s inception in downtown Asheboro.
“I’ve never missed a parade,” Edwards said after his unit folded up the huge Stars and Stripes banner.
His wife Sherry was more informative, saying, “He just got out of the hospital. He was going to walk, no matter what.”
In fact, as late as Nov. 7, four days before the parade, she had said his prognosis was as yet unconfirmed. But he downplayed the whole thing, saying he felt OK.
Sherry later looked through some old mementos at home and found that the Randolph County Honor Guard, which Gary was a member of for a number of years, was organized in 1990. She believes the Veterans Day Parade began the year before.
Gary served as commander of Post 45 for eight years, he said, and 27 years on the board of directors. Overall, he’s been a Legionnaire for 59 years.
For his efforts to support veterans and the military, including military honors for 300 funerals with the Honor Guard, Edwards was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by Gov. Pat McCrory in 2015. It’s the highest honor given to civilians in the Tar Heel State.
Asked why it was so important for him to be in the parade, Edwards said, “I was marching for all the ones that can’t.”