Corsicana Daily Sun
Seventy-four years is a long time for a patriotic town like Corsicana to go without a parade to honor our Veterans. At 10 a.m. Saturday May 18, when the first bands, floats, and historic military vehicles step off from the corner of the Navarro County Courthouse headed for the historic brick streets of downtown Corsicana.
Parade Founder Bill McNutt shared this information. Mr. McNutt is a 1973 graduate of Corsicana High School. His father, L. William McNutt, Jr. was President of Collin Street Bakery and a Word War II Army Sergeant.
Q & A with Parade Founder Bill McNutt
Q: How many participants and vehicles are committed to march in the Armed Forces Day parade in Corsicana?
A: Over 500 men and women! This includes two World War II combat veterans, amazing vintage military vehicles, high school marching bands, a fly over by the Air Force, admirals, generals, and the great, great granddaughter of Jose Antonio Navarro.
Q: Tell us about the Collin Street Bakery Medal of Honor Dinner at the Corsicana Country Club the night before the Parade, Friday May 17.
A: Great history, great food, a celebration of our town’s history and the people we owe so much to, the Texas Veteran. We will tell the story of the Corsicana High School graduate who received the Congressional Medal of Honor, Candelario Garcia. World War II Combat veteran Fiske Haney will describe being shot down in his B29 bomber over Japan in 1945, and surviving in a Japanese prison. We will learn how the atomic bomb saved his life. Mr. BJ Sheppard, another Pacific War Veteran, will describe watching Kamikaze attacks. A limited number of tickets are still available. Please telephone 903-257-5910. They are only $39.
Q: What is your mission statement at the Texas Veterans Parade?
A: “To honor Texas Veterans from all wars and conflicts. To educate children about the sacrifices of veterans, and to teach them about freedom and liberty.”
Q: Who do you hope will come to the parade and the Medal of Honor dinner?
A: First and foremost, I hope parents and grandparents will bring their children and grandchildren. Imagine how meaningful it would have been for our grandparents to have met a Civil War soldier. Today, our children and grandchildren can come and shake the hand of World War II victors and heroes like Fiske Hanley and B.J. Sheppard. The average age of the World War II Veterans is now 94. Out of 16 million who served, only about 400,000 are still with us. And even fewer can still get around, wear their actual uniforms, and share with us like these two men. It will be special.
Q: Gainesville has had a similar parade for the past 18 years. What have you learned from them and are they supporting our parade?
A: Don Pettigrew, a local businessman started their parade and it has grown into a ‘must see’ event each April for Texans who love our military and history. Gainesville is sending us a full historic ground forces attachment with 7 vintage military vehicles to our parade. We have learned from them how important it is to get the Corsicana School District and Navarro College behind our efforts. WWII combat veteran Fiske Handley is going to speak to Corsicana Middle School at 10:15 a.m. on Friday morning. This is living history for children who were not even born when the twin towers were hit on 9/11.
Q: How did you meet and recruit retired Navy Captain Joe Hill to be the Co-Chairman of this year’s parade?
A: I was block walking for our son Thomas McNutt when he was running for the State Legislature. I went to Joe’s home on Glenbrook and found we had much in common. I had worked in the Reagan White House and he had worked for a Republican Congressman as a District Director back home in Louisiana. He is a leader and has done a fine job in turning our Board of Directors’ many ideas into reality.
Q: Discuss Corsicana’s long history of Veterans Parades?
A: In 1918, we had one of the state’s largest and best attended World War I Armistice Day parades. In 1945, a Corsican man, educated at Havard Law school, Beauford Jester, was Governor of Texas. He got his dear friend, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Audie Murphy to be the Grand Marshall of our 1945 Victory Parade and three-day Rodeo. There is a great picture of Audie Murphy in full military uniform with all his medals, riding a horse down Beaton Street. Look it up on the University of Texas at Arlington historic Texas photo website.
Q: Where did the idea come from to reinstate an annual veterans parade in Corsicana?
A: I ask our ten year old daughter, Slone McNutt, what Corsicana could do to honor veterans. As quick as a flash she said, “Daddy, have a parade. Soldiers love to march and children love a parade.” We have a group called “Corsicana My Hometown” that has over 3,000 members on our Facebook page. The leadership of that group includes Mayor Don Denbow, Pastor Danny Reeves, Jimmy Stewart, Thomas Pfueller, Danzell Lee, David Croom and other local leaders. They encouraged me to turn this into reality. Susan Wilson, who does excellent PR work for the city came up with this outstanding date.
Q: Why is the date of May 18, so important?
A: Congress has set the third Saturday in May each year as Armed Forces Day. If you are a military reenactment group, or own a vintage military vehicle, you have plenty of places to go on Veterans Day in November, the 4th of July, or Memorial Day. But, Armed Forces Day is not as celebrated. So it gives us a chance to establish something for many years which people in Texas can come to when they think of Armed Forces Day. Plus, our children are still in school, so we can get them involved with Veterans and re-enactors.
Q: Where can people get more information?
A: We have an easy to remember website. We are the www.TexasVeteransParade.com. We chose that name in hopes of convincing other cities to host annual parades and do what we do in Corsicana; honor all Texas Veterans of every War and Conflict.
Q: What will your thoughts be this Armed Forces Day?
A: The Bible commands us to honor our mothers and fathers. I ‘ll be thinking of my Dad through my work on behalf of Veterans and this parade. I will also be thinking of the boys of the Navarro Rifles and Corsicana Invincibles who left our county in 1861 to fight at Gettysburg and Chickamaunga. I will honor men like the 23-year old Corsicana High graduate Beauford Jester, who left Harvard Law School to serve in France under General John Pershing.
Most of all, I will think of Freedom. May America ever be its protector.