After Confederate flag controversy, residents salvage Veterans Day parade in Melbourne

32 groups have signed up to participate in Saturday's parade

By Wayne T. Price, FLORIDA TODAY
FLORIDA TODAY

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - After the city opted to get out of the parade business because of the controversies associated with flying the Confederate flag, it looked like there was not going to be a Veterans Day parade in Melbourne this year.

Rose Yeary wouldn't hear of it. She believed the area's veterans deserved the recognition, and if city officials thought it was best to avoid controversy, she and others would find a way to make it happen.

She talked with Wayne O. Smith, finance officer of the Melbourne-based American Legion, J.W. Mathers Jr., Post 163 — where they are both active members — and they went to work on gathering support for a parade this year.

Contributors raised $2,200 — the cost of putting on this year's parade — and the event will go on as planned from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 11, on West New Haven Avenue to Oak Street, ending at the Liberty Bell museum.

"It's important that we don't forget our veterans and the millions and millions of veterans who have served our country so proudly and the sacrifices they made." — Rose Yeary

"It's important that we don't forget our veterans and the millions and millions of veterans who have served our country so proudly and the sacrifices they made," Yeary said.

Debates over using public money to pay for parades arose earlier this year after some residents criticized groups that display the Confederate flag along the parade route. It was part of a larger nationwide conversation on what role the Confederate flag should have at publicly funded events.

In August, following a heated debate and emotional comments from the public on both sides of the Confederate flag issue, the council voted 4-3 to stop helping fund four parades: the Fourth of July ($2,500), Memorial Day ($2,000), the Melbourne Light Parade ($7,000) and Veterans Day.

So far, 32 groups have signed up to participate in Saturday's parade, including the Sons of Confederate Veterans Capt. J.J. Dickison Camp 1387, the group that earlier this year sparked debate over the city's parades.

One woman, upon learning of the Confederate group's participation, told Yeary she refused to watch the parade.

"This is still America and everyone is entitled to express their views," Yeary said. "It's what we all wore the uniform for — freedom."

The parades are normally organized by nonprofits, and the Veterans Day parade has in the past been put together by the nonprofit Honor America, which operates the Liberty Bell Museum. But because Honor America is currently under scrutiny for its finances, it was unable to solicit funds for a Veterans Day parade.

That left the task to members of the American Legion, J.W. Mathers Jr., Post 163.   Yeary and Smith.

They went about collecting donations, both small and large from area merchants, until they collected the $2,200 they needed. The Eau Gallie Ace Hardware alone donated $500.

"If we hadn't got the donations, we would have dug into our own pockets," Yeary, an Army veteran and the widow of an Army veteran, said. "There was no one that was going to tell us we were not going to have a parade."

 

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