May 22—Aiken's Memorial Day Parade will welcome special participants this year in terms of premier musical marching bands.
Parade organizers said the Parris Island Marine Band and the S.C. National Guard 246th Band are committed to march in the annual patriotic celebration in Aiken.
Memorial Day in Aiken will be marked downtown — two days early — with a full-scale parade again this year, following the trimmed-down version of 2020.
Plans are for this year's event to be Saturday, May 29, starting at 10 a.m.
The starting point is the City of Aiken Visitors Center and Train Museum (406 Park Ave.), and the procession is to head to Laurens Street going past Trinity on Laurens (retirement home) and end at Edgefield Avenue.
The deadline for participants to register has passed.
The top honorees in this year's procession will be Norman W. Thibodeau, the grand marshal, whose career included four years in the Marine Corps followed by 31 years in the Army; and Jeanne J. Townes, the first lady, whose career included study at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing and three years of active duty in the Army Nurse Corps.
Townes, whose local roles included service as an instructor in USC Aiken's nursing school, retired in 2010 but continued at USCA as a teaching assistant on a part-time basis. She is a native of Philadelphia and met her husband, the late Michael Lloyd Townes, while she was at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he was recuperating from injuries sustained in Vietnam. They married in 1972.
Both were later assigned to Fort Gordon, where her roles included three years divided between time as an assistant head nurse in a pulmonary-neurology unit and as a nurse manager in a obstetrics-gynecology unit. Her husband eventually formed a business partnership at Aiken Lumber Company. He died of cancer in 2004.
Thibodeau, whose has been married to the former Sue Ann Duffey since 1958, was on board in Korea as a Marine before the peace accords of 1953 resulted in an armistice. His service legacy, sandwiched around a brief period of civilian life between the Marine and Army years, included receiving the Legion of Merit medal, which is bestowed "for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements."
The second half of Thibodeau's career included time at Fort Devens (now inactive), in Massachusetts, where he agreed to be recalled to active duty to serve as the command sergeant major for the Army Military Intelligence School in 1991, during Operation Desert Storm. He is a native of East Hartford, Connecticut.
For more information, visit aikenmemorialdayparade.com or call 803-226-0546.
Related Memorial Day events on the calendar include a ceremony to be held May 29 at 10 a.m. at Horse Creek/Midland Valley Veterans Park, on SC 421, in Burnettown, with sponsorship by American Legion Post 153; one set for May 31 in Aiken, at Aiken County Veterans Park, 1453 Richland Ave. E., at 11 a.m., sponsored by Marine Corps League Detachment 939; and a ceremony set for May 31 at 11 a.m. in North Augusta, at American Legion Post 71's headquarters, at 333 East Spring Grove Avenue, near North Augusta Elementary School.