Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer

Franklin’s downtown square was packed Saturday with veterans, their families, and members of the community who wanted to take an opportunity to thank the men and women who have served in the United States military. The town of Franklin kicked off the event with the annual parade of veterans up Main Street.

The parade featured banners carried by local scouts identifying veterans from every war from World War II to Afghanistan. The Franklin High School Marching Panther Regiment also marched alongside the veterans performing patriotic music for the parade.

Franklin Mayor Bob Scott welcomed the crowd to what he deemed “the finest Veterans Day celebration in North Carolina and the United States.” Navy veteran Bob Litten lead the crowd in the invocation.

Macon County Commissioner and veteran Gary Shields served as the emcee for the celebration which featured many musical tributes to the veterans including performances by the Franklin High School B Naturals, FHS Marching Panther Regiment, and local musical groups Blue Ridge and the White Sisters.

The local trio, the White Sisters sang “God Bless America,” “America the Beautiful,” “Fallen, but not Forgotten,” and “Under God.” The local Southern gospel group Blue Ridge sang “One Nation” and “God Bless the USA.”

“Thank you for your service, thank you for everything you do within our communities,” said Shields as he recognized the veterans in the crowd. “In service to America is very important for all of us, we as veterans know just how important it is.”

The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars traditional wreath laying ceremony was followed by a 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps.” Following the Veterans Day celebration, the crowd was invited to celebrate the unveiling of the Charters of Freedom on the courthouse plaza. Commissioner Shields had the idea to bring The Charters of Freedom to Franklin which were gifted to the county by Vance Patterson and Foundation Forward. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, collectively known as the Charters of Freedom, have guaranteed the rights and freedoms of Americans for nearly 250 years.

The Macon County Art Association Uptown Gallery held its sixth annual Veterans Day celebration art show that featured portraits for local veterans. Portraits of 10 veterans were presented to the veterans or members of their families as a part of their annual recognition of veterans. The Veterans Portrait Project is a program the gallery holds annually to honor veterans and recognize their service to our country.

This year, nine artists from the Macon County Arts Association (MCAA) volunteered their time and talent to paint the veterans’ portraits which were presented to the veterans or their families on Veteran’s Day. The art collection, which featured portraits created in several different mediums including watercolors, acrylic, oil, pastels and pencil, have been on display since the beginning of November.