Jacksonville FL — It’s one of the largest Veterans Day Parades in the country and its right here in Jacksonville. Monday morning at 11, tens of thousand of people are expected to come out and honor veterans in all branches of the military during the parade which begins at the Sports Complex and will snake its way through downtown and end at the Prime Osborne Convention Center.
This year’s Grand Marshall is Staff Sergeant John Connelly who joined the Army Air Corps in 1943 when he was inspired by Uncle Sam Posters. The Director of Military Affairs and Veterans for the City of Jacksonville Bill Spann says Connelly is the real deal.
“He’s a true American hero and we’re proud and honored to have him.” Spann says.
During the war, Connelly was also a POW in Germany and survived a 500-kilometer, 52-day brutal forced march to another prison camp. Spann tells WOKV that Connelly and two other prisoners were able to evade another forced march by hiding in a Polish barrack until the country was eventually liberated.
Connally won’t be the only World War Two veteran in the parade. Spann says he will be joined by three of the oldest veterans in Jacksonville. Kathleen Smith will also be there, and she is in her 90’s and served in the Woman’s Army Corps in 1943. William Tomka and Sollie Mitchell will also be there and they are both 101 years old.
There are also road closures associated with this parade. The city says from 6 AM to 3 PM Gator Bowl Blvd. from A. Phillip Randolph Blvd. to Adams Street will be closed. And from 11AM through 2 PM the following streets will be closed:
- Bay Street from A. Phillip Randolph Blvd. to Newnan Street
- Newnan Street from Bay Street to Independent Street
- Independent/Water Streets from Newnan Street to Lee Street
- Lee Street from Water Street to Adams Street
- Bay Street from Lee Street to the I-10 Entrance ramp on Bay Street
The city says Liberty and Market streets will remain open to access and exit the Berkman Plaza and the Hyatt Regency Riverfront Hotel.
If you’d like you go to the parade you’re encouraged to wear red, white and blue and bring your American flags.