Veterans to serve as COTR grand marshals

Serving as Christmas on the River grand marshals this year will be veterans Arthur Lee Hitt (not pictured), Oscar McLamb, Henry Harrison, Howard Jones, Dick Kirkpatrick, Freddie Gracie and Bill Harris. The group is pictured here with Christmas on the River Night Parade Chairman and Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Buffy Etheridge. The COTR Day Parade is set for Saturday, Dec. 7.

Serving as Christmas on the River grand marshals this year will be veterans Arthur Lee Hitt (not pictured), Oscar McLamb, Henry Harrison, Howard Jones, Dick Kirkpatrick, Freddie Gracie and Bill Harris. The group is pictured here with Christmas on the River Night Parade Chairman and Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Buffy Etheridge. The COTR Day Parade is set for Saturday, Dec. 7.

Seven local veterans will serve as grand marshals for the Christmas on the River Day Parade this year, an event that will take place exactly 72 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“The Day Parade is on Dec. 7, which is Pearl Harbor Day. We decided to honor local veterans with the Day Parade and all of the other Christmas on the River events,” Buffy Etheridge, Demopolis Chamber of Commerce board chair, said of the decision to have local veterans serve as grand marshals.

“These gentlemen are getting up in age, so we’re trying to get them in and honor them,” Demopolis Chamber of Commerce Director Jenn Tate said.

Among the individuals riding in the lead float, most of whom are World War II veterans, is Arthur Lee Hitt.

Hitt is 86 years old served as a military police officer in Germany. He will be joined by 86-year-old Oscar McLamb, who entered combat Jan. 29, 1945 as an infantryman in the 94th Division.

Henry Harrison, 94, did several jobs during his time in the war including service as a Battery Commander and a Foreign Observer in the 81st Division. Harrison served in the South Pacific and fought in the Battle of Angaur in the Palau Islands as well as the Philippine Invasion at Leyte Island.

Dick Kirkpatrick served in the 42nd Infantry in France and was wounded at the Battle of the Bulge.

“There are not that many left. So these gentlemen are doing us a favor,” Tate said of the dwindling number of surviving World War II veterans. “They did us a huge service and we want to repay them in some way.”

The National World War II Museum estimates that only 1.2 million of the 16 million men who fought in World War II are still alive and that WWII veterans pass away at a rate of 600 per day.

Howard Jones, 83, enlisted in 1946 and stated that he lied about his age to get accepted into the Marine Corps. Jones was stationed in Utah and did not enter combat.

Bill Harris, 90, served in the Air Force while Freddie Gracie, 86, earned a Silver Star with the 8th Regiment after being injured by a mortar round on the frontline at Sol Korea in the Korean War.

The grand marshals will attend he annual COTR barbecue cook-off Friday night before riding on the lead float of the Day Parade Saturday, Dec. 7 and attending the Christmas on the River Gala that evening.

Ben Sherrod is serving as the chair of the Day Parade while Etheridge is serving as the head of the Night Parade.