90-year-old Al Larson, who joined Army at age 13, to be Grand Marshal
PHS Dragon Football region champs to march in parade
By Suellen Reitz
American Legion Writer
Next Monday, Pickens County will observe Veterans Day, which falls on Sunday, Nov. 11, as they honor all veterans who have served our great nation. As always, Pickens once again will show their patriotism and support of our military men and women in the many activities planed in their honor. This year’s Veterans Day has special significance with it being the centennial anniversary of the first Armistice Day, signaling the end of WWI.
The armistice agreement between Germany and European Allies began at the 11th hour on the 11th day the 11th month of 1918. All soldiers on land, air and sea were ordered to lay down their arms allowing their leaders to begin the peace treaty negotiations. The war officially ended nine months later on 28 June 1919 with the Treaty of Versailles, but throughout Europe, Canada and the USA it is remembered and celebrated on Armistice Day. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower changed the name to Veterans Day to honor all veterans who have served.
World War I, known as the Great War, was also called the War To End All Wars because of the great carnage and loss. Surely mankind would never repeat its history…Overall, there were more than nine million soldiers to die and over than 21 million wounded. Additionally, Spanish Flu, starvation and exposure caused the deaths of at least five million civilians. Here in America, even though our entry into the war was three years after it began in 2014, it is estimated that 52,947 Americans died with 202,628 wounded. From Georgia it is believed 3,700 brave men lost their lives.
The parade’s Grand Marshal this year is someone known by many throughout the county. Retired minister Al Larson now at the age of 90 will be honored as Grand Marshal as he rides proudly down Main Street wearing his original WWII uniform. Petty Officer Third Class Larson joined the military service at the age of 13 (he lied about his age), serving first with the Merchant Marines and later with the US Navy.
When asked why he joined at such an early age, he explained WWII was different from any other war… “Our country was truly united… every man, woman and child was involved in supporting the war. Men couldn’t wait to enlist. That’s why they called it the Great Generation.”
In his autobiography book It Seems Like I Passed You Somewhere Today, Larson tells of the many episodes he experienced in life at sea. In one notable memory, his ship survived the worst typhoon ever recorded in the Pacific while in route to the Philippines in 1944. “We should have sunk twice in the 100 foot waves that were pounding the sides of our ship. God’s intervention is the only thing that saved us…”
In addition to the veterans from the American Legion, Marine Corps League and DAV, the Daughters of the American Revolution and Abe Lincoln with wife Mary (aka Homer S. Sewell III and Joan Britton) will be waving to the crowd. And don’t forget our great Pickens High region football champions. They will be walking tall along with Pickens High marching band.
Immediately following the parade, join the veterans at our new Veterans Memorial located at Lee Newton Park. Guest speaker Homer Sewell will wow you as Abe Lincoln in his patriotic message. With 2,238 appearances in 47 states since 1975, Sewell truly becomes Lincoln.
The ceremony will begin with a special prayer given by Grand Marshal Larson followed by Presentation of Colors done by the Marine Corps 1280 Detachment. Our National Anthem and patriotic tunes will be performed by the Pickens Band and chorus with soloist Isabella Willbanks. A special presentation will be made by the Sequoyah DAR before ceremony ends with the playing of TAPS by Faith Dement.
For the veterans and their guest, celebrations will continue with the annual Veterans Appreciation Luncheon provided by Mountainside Piedmont Hospital. All veterans are invited to attend. The delicious meal of roast beef or chicken and all the sides will be served from 11 a.m. till 1 p.m.
Come be part of the celebration and show the patriotism our county is known for. Our county is honored to be the home of over 3,000 veterans which make up over 12 percent of our population. That is one of the highest in the nation, with national average veteran population being 8.3 percent by county. It’s obvious the veterans love Pickens County. Let’s return that love as we say thank you for their part in keeping our homes safe. See you there.