Darren Doyle, story and photos:
In case you're wondering what all the commotion in Brownsville was about on Friday evening around 7pm, it was just one example of how things are done in Edmonson County, KY, USA.
A group of local veterans who were returning from a chartered tour of Washington D.C. were stopped as they came into the northern part of the county and escorted by police cars, fire trucks, and other emergency vehicles. Cars were stopping all through Brownsville and folks came out of their homes to take a look.
Most veterans on the bus were Vietnam vets, the majority of which never had an official "welcome home" party, and certainly not a parade. So why the parade now?
Local businessman and emergency volunteer Richie Jones overheard Brownsville City Council woman Stephanie Gibson talking to Judge Executive Wil Cannon earlier in the week. He said she was telling the judge about the trip the vets were on and that it would be nice to do something in their honor.
"I just heard her talking about it and told her that I think we could do something like that," said Jones.
After a few phone calls, members of the Edmonson County Sheriff's Office, Brownsville Police, and both the Chalybeate and Brownsville Fire Departments were waiting with lights and sirens as the tour bus came into the county. Needless to say, the vets were shocked. Folks spread the word this week and when the bus returned to the library (where all the vets' vehicles were parked) there were dozens of county residents waving American flags, clapping, and cheering. Everyone was then invited inside for cake and refreshments.
"I got off a plane at the Chicago Airport in 1968," said Richard Jones, Sr., a local Vietnam vet who made the trip. "I ran into a bunch of hippies. They cussed and spit on me in my uniform. This makes up for that," he said as he fought back tears.
The group certainly had their share of excitement on the trip as their hotel was near the shooting incident where four people were shot on June 14, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana. They were unable to tour the White House because of a security lockdown, but according to Mr. Jones' wife, Delores, they were still able to meet Senator Rand Paul, who actually was on location of the shooting, while also meeting up with Congressman Brett Guthrie, and Senator Mitch McConnell.
Nearly 30 vets and their families were on the tour and they thanked everyone multiple times for their affection.
"They needed to be recognized," said Mrs. Gibson. "We just wanted to show them that we love them and we still support them. It was long overdue."
Richie Jones also wanted to thank the public, the emergency workers, and the library for all the support in the parade and reception.
"We really appreciate everyone's help in this," he said. "This was special for all of us."