By Betsy Thorpe
On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, Allied Commander-in-chief Marshal Ferdinand Foch and Germany’s representative Matthias Erzberger signed the armistice treaty in Picardie France, establishing peace on the Western Front and marking the end of the first World War. In November of 1919 in honor of the armistice and to celebrate the Allies victory in Europe, a parade made its way through downtown Nashville. The parade included soldiers recently returned from the War as well as veterans of the Civil War and of the Spanish American War.
World War I victory parade in Nashville; soldiers in foreground are Confederate veterans.
In the following years, a parade in remembrance of the armistice took place in Nashville every November with participants marching east on Broadway. A national holiday known as Armistice Day was observed on November 11th. On May 26, 1954 President Dwight Eisenhower signed a law, changing the name of the holiday to Veteran’s Day.
This year’s parade started promptly at eleven a.m. Brigadier General Robert Harris of the 194th Engineer Brigade stood with VFW Commander John Furgess on the review stand. Three high school marching bands, Girl and Boy Scout troops and Shriners joined members of local and regional VFW posts (including West Nashville Post 1970), and other veteran groups such as The Alvin C York Chapter of Ex-Prisoners of War as they proceeded down Broadway toward the review stand. Cheering crowds waving flags and holding signs offering gratitude and support lined the street.
“Veteran” enactors of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, including United States Colored Troop 13 marched in the parade. “President Lincoln” moved among the crowds of participants and onlookers.
A group of employees and customers from Shoney’s walked to honor the service of friends and family members. Their group included uniformed Corpsman Marlin Mealer and retired Marine, Major Jack Spence, both of Bellevue.
Some members of the 101st Airborne Division were present in the parade, but many in their division were absent, still in Iraq. Commander John Furgess recently said ” We don’t celebrate war, but we do celebrate the service of the warrior”. If the deployed members of the 101st return to Tennessee by next November, they will be honored in the 2009, Veteran’s Day Parade and local citizens will have the opportunity to welcome them home in a Nashville tradition first established in 1919.