BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT)– Birmingham organizations are gearing up for the 76th annual Veterans Day Parade set for Saturday afternoon at 1p.m.
Participating non-profits and school organizations said they strive to honor and support our nation’s veterans not only on Veterans Day, but every day.
Three Hots and a Cot provides a place for homeless veterans in the Birmingham area to receive the assistance they need to gain full independence. Their data shows the homeless population in Birmingham is currently near 3,000 people; About 800 of those people are veterans. This is an issue they’re working to curve.
Executive Director Jay Gibbs is a veteran who served two tours in Iraq. He went through the Three Hots and a Cot program himself and said it changed his life forever.
He said what he values most about the organization is that they never give up on any veteran, including him; That’s why he chooses to pay it forward to others every day.
“Whatever obstacles we hit in forging the change for my life, they undertook it and they were like, ‘We’re here. We’ll do this,'” he said. “So, no matter what came up, Three Hots and a Cot was going to be there.”
Pleasant Grove High school’s JROTC program and Southern Preparatory Academy, a military boarding school, both work to instill values that stem from the military lifestyle in our younger generation.
Joe Watson who serves as Director of Sustainability at Southern Preparatory Academy said they want students to walk away prepared not only for college, but also any type of trade, career, or life in the military.
For them, education is number one, with a focal point on patriotism and respect for country.
“That’s a big opportunity and it translates later into their work environment if they’re a manager, if they’re a CEO, if they’re starting their own business,” Watson said. “If they’re hiring employees they’re used to working with their peers and other people.”
Chief Eugene Murphy said Pleasant Grove’s JROTC program is family oriented, motivating young people to be better citizens. He said they gain a strong appreciation for veterans by learning how to love their self and serve others.
“Community service, being a good person, being respectful,” said Chief Murphy. “And as that time goes then we show you what the military and veterans is all about; What it stands for. And at that point they want to be part of it.”
JROTC students at Pleasant Grove High School said Veterans Day is a day they get to honor those who have served and protected our country, supporting veterans who have inspired students like senior Lashay Williams to join the military.
Williams said she wants to make a difference just like veterans who’ve served before her.
Williams and her freshman classmate Alaina Murrell said through JROTC they’re gaining an understanding of how great the sacrifice is that people who serve our country make.
“Some of those people were folks’ fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers,” Williams said. “Some of them gave their life to fight for this country and it wouldn’t be right not to honor them.”
Both Williams and Murrell spoke about family members who’ve served and how grateful they are to have them home safe now.
“It’s more like relief because you went and served and you came back,” said Murrell. “You’re okay. A lot of people don’t really come back, but it’s relieving to know that I still have my family.”
Williams said they try to honor our veterans daily and they hope they see just how much they appreciate them as they march with pride in Saturday’s parade.