Event moved to Nov. 11; registration required

Grinston to be at Jasper Veterans Day Parade

By ED HOWELL
Posted 10/13/19

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston, who grew up in Jasper, will be the grand marshal of this year's Jasper Veterans Day Parade, resulting in the 11 a.m. parade being moved to Monday, Nov. 11, and requirements for signing up in advance to participate in the event. 

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Event moved to Nov. 11; registration required

Grinston to be at Jasper Veterans Day Parade

Posted

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston, who grew up in Jasper, will be the grand marshal of this year's Jasper Veterans Day Parade, resulting in the 11 a.m. parade being moved to Monday, Nov. 11, and requirements for signing up in advance to participate in the event. 

The parade has traditionally been held on Saturday mornings, but Grinston was not available until later "so we made the parade work for him in his schedule," co-organizer Brent McCarver said. 

Jasper Mayor David O'Mary reached out to Grinston later in the summer about being honored in the city, McCarver said. 

"We wanted to have him here to do an event here to honor him as a native son," he said, noting the schedule turned out better to come for Veterans Day, which made for great coincidence. "He was excited." 

Due to security, the City of Jasper is joining the Marvin Lee Ferguson VFW Post 4850/Jasper and its Auxiliary to put on the parade. McCarver and Lisa Myers are leading city efforts, while auxiliary member Janet Little, who has helped organize past parades, will represent the VFW. 

"It's still their parade," McCarver said of the VFW. "We're just helping." He said with the major Birmingham parade the same day, the state commander of the VFW gave his blessings for the Jasper date change. 

A viewing grandstand will be constructed for the courthouse square. Invitation-only events are also being held to honor Grinston, including breakfast and a lunch the day of the parade. 

Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth and U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt are among a large number of political and military dignitaries who are expected to be attending the event. 

Details of the parade are still being worked out, although some aspects are already clear. Officials particularly stressed that due to the security involved with a high Army official, the usual aspect of walking up to join the parade at the last minute will not work without some screening of the participants. 

"The deadline is Oct. 31 to sign up" to participate in the parade, with no exceptions, McCarver said. "You have to get with Miss Little or with Lisa and the events office to be registered and signed up for the parade by October 31 or you are not in it." 

Little said she has been trying to contact past participants to let them have first try at booking into the parade, which McCarver said has been limited to 100 participants. Officials stress that if the participants are as they have been in the past, there generally should be no problems with them participating. 

He also noted that the city ordinance has never allowed animals in parades. The Jasper City Council has to give approval to have horses in the parade, which has been arranged for this parade. 

"But the way this works, it is one horse, one cleanup. You don't have an animal without having someone to clean up behind the animal. Those are some of the things that have never been enforced," McCarver said. 

McCarver indicated that the reviewing stand, on the courthouse side of the street, is being set up as military protocol would allow for Grinston "reviewing" the parade from there, much like the president watches the inaugural parade in his honor. He indicates that Grinston is expected to ride from the school area to the reviewing stand, where he will get out at that point to be on the reviewing stand for the rest of the parade. 

"The other thing that can happen in a military parade, we could, as the end of the parade comes through, your marshals could get back into the vehicles and then ride out the parade as well. I'm not positive that we will do that," he said, although fewer people might see him if that did not happen. 

McCarver said the traditional brief welcoming ceremony is expected to be held at the square before the parade starts.

Also, Little noted that the parade line-up will still be at the T.R. Simmons Elementary School area on Viking Drive (19th Street), heading west from there. Organizers usually like everyone to be in place by 10 a.m.

Last year, the parade turned right on Fifth Avenue (The Cigar Box and Reality South) instead of Sixth Avenue, as has been tradition in the past. This year, the parade will again turn on Sixth Avenue. Little said the parade will continue east on 18th Street back to the old Walker High School parking lot. Little said she is hoping the parade can continue back to the school on 18th street so elderly residents and children can see the parade from their porches. 

The Jasper High Band will lead the parade, but a number of county high school bands will come together as one band in the parade, officials said. Both bands are expected to stop and play in front of the grandstand. Also, anything military-related will stop in front of the grandstand. 

Candy can be handed out, but a city ordinance requires they walk beside the vehicles and hand it out, as opposed to throwing it from a float. Adults are preferred to hand out the candy, or at least to accompany children that could be put on a float.

After the parade, hot dogs and drinks will be available to parade participants at the VFW Post, across Highway 118 from Walker Baptist Medical Center, with the military plane in front. 

Grinston, 51, received his latest appointment in June and was sworn into office on Aug. 9. 

He is a 1986 Walker High School graduate His deployments include Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Kosova, where he was involved in active combat. He has deployed in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom twice each, and  was also involved in  the Army's first deployment of a division headquarters in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq from October 2014 to June 2015. 

His awards and decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and five Bronze Stars (with two "V" devices). He has earned the Ranger tab, Master Parachutist badge, Air Assault badge, Drill Sergeant Identification badge and the Combat Action badge. He has attended every level of the Noncommissioned Officer Education System and is a graduate of Ranger, Airborne and Air Assault Schools. He is also a graduate of Drill Sergeant School and the Equal Opportunity Course. 

The Army Times reported in June, "During a six-hour firefight in Bayji, Iraq, Grinston earned one Bronze Star with Valor after braving a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades while running from vehicle to vehicle to give orders because the radios weren’t working, according to a 2005 Stars and Stripes article detailing the fight.

"He earned his second Bronze Star with Valor during a separate patrol that was ambushed in Iraq during which he rallied his troops and counterattacked, killing 10 insurgents and wounding 10 more with no casualties to his own forces, Stripes reported at the time."

Grinston also earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Maryland University College.

He spoke at Jasper High School in December 2018 while he was Command Sergeant Major of U.S. Army Forces Command - what the Army Times later described as "senior enlisted leader for U.S. Army Forces Command — the service’s largest command and provider of expeditionary land forces." 

Grinston said in an interview at the time of the visit he was born in Indiana, but his family moved to Jasper when he was 3. (His father, Bill Grinston, is deceased, while his mother still lives in Jasper.) After high school, he attended Walker College for a while, but eventually a recruiter encouraged him to join the Army for scholarship money, resulting in his enlistment in October 1987. 

He said during his visit that under his position at the time, he was in charge of 220,000 enlisted soldiers. If deployed Guardsmen, Department of Defense civilians and others are included, he was roughly in command over as many as 700,000 people. 

According to his official biography, as the sergeant major of the Army, "Grinston is the Army chief of staff's personal adviser on matters affecting the enlisted force. He devotes the majority of his time traveling throughout the Army to observe training and interact with Soldiers and their Families.

"He sits on a variety of councils and boards that make decisions affecting enlisted Soldiers and their Families and routinely invited to testify before Congress. Grinston is the public face of the U.S. Army's Noncommissioned Officer Corps, representing the NCO Corps to the American people in the media and through business and community engagements." 

For more information, especially to finalize lineup plans, call Little at 205-275-6441. They may also call Myers or McCarver at 205-221-2100. 

In related news, after the parade, All Four Real Estate is hosting a Chili Cook-Off to raise money and awareness of homeless veterans.