Hill street is empty. No tanks. No trumpeters. Not even a stray balloon. Now that 10,000 visitors have left their temporary posts along the town’s curbs, Warsaw can get down to business.
Only a few weeks after playing host to America’s oldest consecutive Veterans Day celebration, Warsaw Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lori Smith and Duplin County’s Veterans Committee start talking about the next celebration.
The golf tournament will be back, for sure. As will street vendors and carnival games. The flyover is an event staple, drawing everyone’s attention skyward for a roaring mid-morning kickoff. As always, the fire department will serve free barbecue to all men and women in uniform. And, of course, it wouldn’t be Veterans Day without a parade — the grand marshal riding in a convertible, marching bands behind.
When someone in the room suggests the theme “Tour of a Higher Calling,” paying special homage to military chaplains, the committee gives an enthusiastic go-ahead. And just like that, Warsaw is well on its way to making this month’s 93rd annual celebration as meaningful as the 2012 celebration.
Duplin County residents are keepers of a flame. At the veterans museum on Hill Street, curator Earl Raus is hard at work assembling a special exhibit dedicated to the chaplains.
Military artifacts cover the walls of the green-roofed 1894 Queen Anne-style house, a sort of capsulated, year-round parade. The mementos are gifts from local families, the belongings of Duplin County’s loved ones who have died in combat.
Raus points to an old newspaper clipping. He recalls the packs of cars and the spirited military bands of past celebrations. He’s missed only two Warsaw Veterans Day parades in his lifetime — the two years he was serving overseas as a member of the United States Coast Guard during the Vietnam War. The Veterans Day traditions in Warsaw continue as jubilantly as Raus has always remembered.
November 9, 2013, will be no different. After the passing excitement of food and floats dies down, Smith and the veterans Committee will start planning for another year. Raus will frame memories from the 93rd celebration and place them on his walls. And Duplin County’s veterans, and their sons and daughters, will return to everyday life with a renewed sense of duty to their community.
It’s a tradition of service that will continue. Because gratitude just keeps calling.
Warsaw Veterans Day Celebration
November 9. Free admission. Downtown. Memorial service, 10 a.m. Parade, 11 a.m.