'The real meaning of the Fourth'
WISE — A strong breeze was the only noticeable trace of Hurricane Arthur on Friday morning in the small Warren County community of Wise.
Residents and visitors lined U.S. 1 North with pick-ups, trailers and even horses to watch the 13th annual Independence Day Parade.
Delaine Perkinson, who lives in Wise and helped organize the event, said they were prepared for rain when Hurricane Arthur passed along the coast Thursday afternoon.
“We are so pleased to have such a beautiful day for this,” she said. “We’ve been out before in rain — it hasn’t stopped us. But we much prefer the nice weather that we have today.”
The hurricane struck North Carolina as a Category 2 storm with winds of 100 mph late Thursday, but no injuries or deaths were reported.
90-year-old Joel Miller, who was honored as the grand marshal, and his wife, Joyce, rode in the parade.
Miller grew up on a cotton farm in Augusta, Arkansas, and volunteered for active duty in 1942, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
He became a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, which refers to the group of black men trained as airmen in an experimental Air Corps program in Tuskegee, Alabama.
Until that time, the Air Corps had resisted the idea of training black pilots — reflecting ingrained prejudices about their intelligence, skill and bravery.
Miller remained in the service until December 1944 when he received a medical discharge because of a back injury.
He thanked those who came out Friday for their support, adding he was grateful to be a part of the annual event.
Charlie Jefferson, a military veteran, has tried to make it to the Fourth of July parade every year since he retired and moved back to Warren County.
He served from 1955 – 1958 between the Vietnam and Korean wars.
“I enjoyed my time in service; it taught me a lot,” he said. “I enjoyed the travel and meeting people and the educational opportunities I got. The service has some of the best training schools.”
He said the parade tries to honor the legacy of veterans.
“It’s getting to be more focused on what the Fourth of July entails — the real meaning of the Fourth of July,” he said.
Jennifer Williams and her two daughters were new to the event.
“We live in Warren County and had heard about it before but never went,” she said.
Following the parade, Williams treated her kids to homemade ice cream and other sweets sold at the festival that included about 20 vendors and took place behind Wise Baptist Church.
“I can definitely see us coming back,” she said.
Clarence Marcus and his family came from just above the Virginia border, which is less than 10 miles north of Wise.
He said they have been coming for the past several years because the Wise parade highlights the real significance of the holiday.
“I want my kids to understand this isn’t a day about fireworks,” he said. “It’s about paying respects to veterans who served for our country.”
Marcus said he comes from a family of military veterans, though he is not one.
“They do a good job here of putting the spotlight on the veterans,” he said.
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