Community members gather for drive-thru parade at Ardmore Veterans Center Friday

Sierra Rains
Friends and family members of veterans at the Ardmore Veterans Center gathered for a drive-thru parade Friday afternoon.

Cars were backed up all the way from Hollingsworth Dr. to the Ardmore Veterans Center on South Commerce St. for the Ardmore Family Drive-Thru Parade on Friday afternoon.

Several motorcyclists from various groups, including the Blue Knights and Iron Riders, showed up with American flags waving on the back of their bikes and family and friends held decorative signs thanking the veterans for their service and reminding them that they are loved.

As the vehicles passed through the veterans center in a u-shape, the veterans and employees at the center gathered outside to wave to those in the parade. Smiles rippled through the crowd, with some employees on the verge of crying from the strong emotions evoked by the display.

Keri Honea, the Recreation Director at the Ardmore Veterans Center, said the veterans have been isolated from their family and friends for almost two months now due to COVID-19.

“We pretty much shut down everything as soon as we got word of it, so I think it was like in early March,” Honea said.

Like many nursing homes across the nation, the Ardmore Veterans Center temporarily adopted a no visitor policy in order to protect the veterans, who are at a much higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.

On March 12, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced a nation-wide no visitor policy at VA facilities.

Honea said the veterans have been getting restless and want to go places as more and more of their previously scheduled events, including a May ball game, have been canceled.

This was the first time Honea said she had ever organized anything like the parade, but that it seemed like a good opportunity for the veterans to get some much needed face-to-face interaction with the community.

“There’s been a lot of music groups and people that would come in and do different things here at the center like bingos and cook outs and stuff like that, but right now they’re missing out on part of that so we’re trying to fill the void of what they don’t have right now due to COVID-19,” Honea said.

People from all different walks of life attended the parade, whether they were family members of veterans, friends of the workers at the veterans center, or just community members that wanted to help spread some joy to the veterans.

Honea said the veterans were told about the parade before it happened and were very excited to see such a large turnout and support from the community.