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Parade to feature 2 WWII vets

LAWRENCEVILLE - Fifteen years ago, Marvin Atherton wondered if anyone would show up to his Memorial Day parade.

"When the day came, there were more people than anyone had ever seen on Dacula streets," said Atherton, the parade's founder. "Every year, it's grown in more popularity."

The annual Dacula Memorial Day parade will begin at 10 a.m. Monday at Hebron Baptist Church. The route will proceed down Dacula Road, turn right on Second Avenue and end at Dacula High School.

Dacula's annual Memorial Day festival will begin at 9 a.m. in Dacula Park. More than 100 vendors will be selling their crafts and wares, and entertainment will begin at 11 a.m., after the parade.

Atherton isn't a veteran, but he said he plans the parade each year because he thinks it's important for people - especially children - to know what Memorial Day is all about.

"It's not a holiday for us," he said. "It's a holiday for those who gave their lives for us ... so we could have a free nation and free other nations."

This year, at least two World War II veterans will participate in the parade.

D-Day survivor Paul Efstration of Greenville, S.C., will be the parade's grand marshal, Atherton said.

Navy veteran and former Dacula resident Hoke Henson and his wife, Edith, will ride as honorees on the Arthritis Foundation Gwinnett County Walk Group's float.

Henson said he joined the Navy after the war had already begun.

"I thought it shouldn't last long," he said. "It lasted longer than I thought it would."

Henson served in the Navy's fire and rescue division, helping put out fires and responding whenever there was a plane crash.

He said he recently bought a dress uniform, which he will wear during the parade. The 82-year-old said he plans to be buried in it, because he wants "to honor the service I was in."

The Henson's niece, Lisa Bielstein, a logistics chair with the Arthritis Foundation's Georgia Chapter, saw the parade as a fitting tribute to her uncle.

"They've never been in a parade. He's never been honored this way," Bielstein said. "I told him, 'You don't need to save that new uniform for when you die. You need to be honored in it right now.'"

Henson said he's glad he'll be participating in the parade. He said Memorial Day "makes it feel like, even with the shape everything's in now - you still feel like you've got a good country to honor and respect."

Gwinnett County's annual Memorial Day ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday at the Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial, located on the grounds of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center in Lawrenceville.

The event will pay tribute to the nation's military veterans and honor one local serviceman who was killed in the line of duty, according to a news release.

Sgt. 1st Class Donald Theronnie Tabb's name will be added to the memorial under the heading "Global War on Terrorism." Tabb, a 1998 graduate of Meadowcreek High School, was killed Feb. 5 in Afghanistan.

Staff Writer Josh Green contributed to this report.

SideBar: If you go

What: 15th annual Dacula Memorial Day parade and festival

When: The parade begins at 10 a.m. Monday. The festival starts at 9 a.m., with entertainment beginning at 11 a.m.

Where: The parade will start at Hebron Baptist Church and proceed down Dacula Road, turn right on Second Avenue and end at Dacula High School. The festival will take place in Dacula Park, 205 Dacula Road.

Cost: Admission is free, but crafts and refreshments will be sold at the festival.

For more information: Visit www.daculamemorialday.com.

What: Gwinnett County's annual Memorial Day ceremony

When: 1 p.m. Monday

Where: Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial, Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, 75 Langley Drive, Lawrenceville

Note: Sgt. 1st Class Donald Theronnie Tabb's name will be added to the Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial.

For more information: Visit www.gwinnettfallenheroes.com.