Fayette County

Lexington will have no Veterans Day parade but will honor vets at Henry Clay High School

Lexington will hold a community Veterans Day program to honor its veterans at Henry Clay High School this week, but there will be no traditional parade.

Tom Baker, who heads the organization that has long coordinated Veterans Appreciation Week activities in Lexington, said the parade has become increasingly difficult to organize in recent years, in part because many World War II and Korean War veterans are unable to take part.

"It has been hit or miss for a number of years as far as trying to get the planning done," said Baker, who chairs the Bluegrass Military Affairs Coalition. "So, we said let's do something else that will be substantial and will resonate with the community."

This year's community salute to veterans will be Friday afternoon at Henry Clay High School. Representatives from the 101st Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team from Fort Campbell, all veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan, will be on hand.

Members from the 1st Brigade Combat Team will be at Henry Clay all day Friday, talking with students about their experiences during each class period at the school's Lassiter Theater. Henry Clay citizenship students are going to "adopt" the combat team, which is in the midst of its latest deployment to Afghanistan. With direct U.S. involvement in Afghanistan winding down, it could be one of the unit's last tours in that country.

The public portion of the program will start about 2 p.m. Friday at the Lassiter Theater. Veterans, their families and members of the public are invited to attend.

Veterans also are invited to wear their uniforms and decorations.

Mayor Jim Gray and other dignitaries will take part in the event, which will be co-sponsored by the military affairs coalition.

Meanwhile, Jeanne Strunk Sheckels, a vice president with the Disabled Americans Veterans Auxiliary in Lexington, said she thinks a communitywide effort is needed to plan and develop a large annual veterans celebration for the city that would include a parade. Recent veterans parades have been small and drawn few spectators, she said.

"There haven't been many participants, there's hardly anybody who shows up," Sheckels said Monday. "It's a sad state of affairs. We need to be showing more of a caring attitude toward our veterans."

Sheckels said it might be smarter to hold such an event earlier in the fall because it can be difficult for older veterans to take part in a parade in November, when the weather typically is colder.

"Who says it has to actually be on Veterans Day," she said. "How about doing it the last Saturday in September? You have to be kind of open-minded and creative."

Veterans Day is Sunday, the 94th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I in 1918. The federal holiday will be Monday.