ABERDEEN – With the red, white and blue waving at its entrance, Acker Park welcomed the flow of Aberdeen Main Street's Fourth of July parade June 27 for a dedication ceremony.
The event balanced the past, present and future on two fronts as veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars were honored, and the public was encouraged on how to continue honoring them and also how the park's renovation is coming and how people can help moving forward.
"We've spent 239 years as a nation. It's such a short time, but so many have given their blood. Aren't you thankful we're free? I carried over 4,000 students to register to vote. It's a shame and a disgrace we don't have 50 percent of the people who take the time to vote. When I pull that card from the voting machine, I'm honoring you," said former Aberdeen High School U.S. Government teacher Jimmy Puckett while speaking to a crowd heavily dense with veterans. "Another way people can pay these guys back is to serve jury duty when you're called to ensure a fair trial."
Veterans on an array of motorcycles led the parade, which traveled from the First Baptist Church down Main Street and back down to Acker Park, ahead of emergency vehicles, children and a collection of vintage military vehicles.
Upon the parade's arrival at the park, Alexus Hannah sang the National Anthem, the Aberdeen High School JROTC displayed the colors, and the First Presbyterian Church's Rev. Van Moore led a prayer.
Additionally, U.S. Congressman Trent Kelly's Veterans Affairs Office Representative Bernard Evans and veteran John Roberts both spoke, and Susan Evans read a poem written by the late Patsy Pace about the Vietnam War.
"I want to thank all veterans, and God bless everyone, and God bless America," Roberts said before reading his essay, "A Precious Gift."
Changing the topic from pride for country to pride for community, Bobby Watkins, who spearheaded Acker Park's renovation, reported one-fourth of the renovation is complete, and plenty of opportunities remain before it's done.
Mayor Cecil Belle said the city plans for a walking track around the park and challenged everyone to get involved in the city.
A new feature east of the park's entrance is a butterfly garden installed by Mattox Services in memory of Claire Mattox, who passed away last summer.
"I hope everybody will enjoy being able to come here. It will be a year next month since Claire went to Heaven to be an angel. A lot of people have helped us out, and a lot of people have helped with prayer," said Claire's mother, Anita.
"A symbol of a butterfly is beauty and grace, and I don't know what else symbolizes Claire better. She was beautiful inside and out," said Claire's father, Ed.