Traverse City Record-Eagle

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July 5, 2013

Veterans reflect on meaning of July 4th

TRAVERSE CITY — Local veterans readied to march with 600 American flags in the Junior Royale Parade through downtown Thursday — an act that likely broke a record.

Organizers realized they missed a deadline to apply to Guinness World Records, but Jack Pickard, former Grand Traverse Area Veteran Coalition president, said the significance lies in the parade falling on Independence Day.

He and others from the coalition helped the Traverse City Boom Boom Club raise money for the fireworks before the parade Thursday at the Open Space because “it’s a veterans duty to raise funds for the celebration of independence.”

Pickard, who served in the Army during the Vietnam War, thought of those who sacrificed their lives for America’s freedom.

“I’m fortunate,” he said. “I don’t care if I got artificial knees or whatever. I’m here.”

The holiday also holds meaning for Beulah resident and World War II veteran Gerald Hammond, who was to be presented the French Legion of Honor Thursday. His family, including four children, nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren are in town for the ceremony.

Hammond, 88, served as a private first class in the 953rd Field Artillery Battalion in the 1st Army under Gen. Omar Bradley. He participated in the invasion of Omaha Beach in Normandy, helped liberate the French city of St. Lo and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

The Legion of Honor is the highest decoration bestowed by the French government. Hammond said he’s glad to be recognized, but there are scores of others who deserve credit.

“It wasn’t just me,” he said. “There were thousands of GIs involved in Battle of the Bulge.”

He continued, “That was six weeks of plain hell ... The weather was horrible. You couldn’t see anything, so we couldn’t have the Air Force. When the weather got better in a few weeks, that was the turning tail.”

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