For Victor Kubilius, who served in the Korean Conflict, Saturday’s Military Appreciation Day was uplifting.
“It’s very uplifting,” said the 83-year-old Myrtle Beach resident as the parade kicked off. “You forget about any bad parts in your life on a day like today.”
Kubilius joined hundreds who lined Ocean Boulevard Saturday morning to pay tribute to the men and women who have served in the U.S. military.
Kubilius was an infantryman and later served in military intelligence because he spoke four languages: Russian, Lithuanian, German and English. But, he said, that paled in comparison to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for America.
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“This is to honor people who gave more than I did. They gave their lives,” Kubilius said. “I think this is very appropriate and rather somber.”
Saturday kicked off with a 5K Run, continued with the parade, and ended with a family picnic at the former Pavilion site.
Anne Leimbach, president of the branch of the Blue Star Mother of Coastal Carolina, was carrying a cardboard cutout of a picture of her son, Steven, who has been serving in the Army for the last eight years. For her, Saturday’s parade and ceremonies were for more than just the safe return of her son.
“Our dream is one day we won’t be carrying sticks, we’ll be walking arm-in-arm with our kids,” Leimbach said. “That’ll be a great year.”
She marched with other mothers who have sons and daughters in the military. They stopped to greet and thank veterans who were watching the parade along the route.
“We try to make a point that we’re not only here to honor our children who can’t be here, we’re here to honor the vets that did their job so that we can do this, and so that our kids can do their jobs,” Leimbach said.
Montel Williams, who’s most notably known for his gift to gab, spent 22 years of his life in the military – a Marine who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with an engineering with a minor in international security. Williams was the parade’s Grand Marshal.
“Being Grand Marshal of the Memorial Day parade, I’m hoping this comes across that this is all about our veterans,” Williams said after the parade. “This is all about remembering and memorializing those who allowed us to have the freedoms that we have. Unfortunately, there’s so much bull crap in the media right now. It’s all politically based and pointing fingers one way or another. We could give a damn about what the politics are, just get the soldiers off the battlefield.”
Williams’ family sent three of his siblings to college by the time he graduated high school, so serving his country was a viable option.
“My family already spent the money on three kids going to college and there was no money left, so I had to figure out a way to do that,” Williams said. “I went to the military long before it was vogue.”
He said he wanted to use the celebrity status he attained through his talk show, The Montel Williams Show, which ran from 1991 to 2008, to make sure people took the time to remember those who fought for America.
“What I’m trying to do is utilize my appearance here to spark people to remember, we are the people,” Williams said. “We’re the ones who owe it to all the veterans to make sure we remember the debt we are required to pay.”