WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — In the past few years, the COVID pandemic forced the cancellation of many Veterans Day events, but this year parades and other activities are back.

Friday morning, West Memphis Arkansas’ Veterans Day parade rolled down Broadway Street. It was a proud day for veterans and their families.

“My dad served in WWII, and her father served in the Vietnam era,” said Trale Mead of Marion. “My husband served in the Navy in the Vietnam era, and then we have grandsons that are in the National Guard today.”

It was not the expected turnout, but those who did attend felt it was crucial to show their appreciation.

“While we were here safely at home, they were putting their life on the line for us,” Louise Harris of West Memphis said.

Louise Harris’ husband served in Vietnam in the early 1970s. Willie Harris was in his early 20s when his “number came up.”

“I was teaching math in a little school in Crawfordsville Arkansas, had been teaching 16 days and got my draft notice, and it was like ‘that was quite a shock,'” Harris said.

Harris served as a squad leader in the Army’s infantry while in Vietnam and sadly recalls what it was like to return after being discharged.

“We came home, and we didn’t get many thanks at that time and everything, and we just left the service and resumed our jobs,” Harris said.

For the past 28 years, Harris has been on a different kind of “front line” as assistant superintendent of education for West Memphis Schools but not for a moment regretting his years in uniform.

“This is a great country. I love this country, so it was just a privilege to serve,” Harris said. “As I look back it was really a blessing in disguise.”

In addition to the parade down Broadway Street, the VFW in West Memphis honored veterans and their families with music and lunch.

Veterans also signed dozens of “thank you” cards that were delivered to veterans at three West Memphis assisted living facilities.