Purple Heart parade, dedication planned for Saturday in Biloxi

A parade of almost a dozen retired and active-duty generals, a host of classic and current military vehicles, and more than a dozen ROTC marching units will roll Saturday through downtown Biloxi to mark the dedication of the Military Order of the Purple Heart monument at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor.

The parade is scheduled to begin at noon – or “1200 hours,” as organizers are saying in military parlance — on Esters Boulevard, proceed south on Lameuse Street, and turning east on U.S. 90 to enter the Small Craft Harbor at Main Street. Police will detour traffic off U.S. 90 at Main to Reynoir streets while the parade crosses U.S. 90, which should be from around 12:15 p.m. to shortly before 1 p.m.

Parking for boaters using the small craft harbor boat ramp will be limited from 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, and all boater owners should use the harbor’s east entrance Saturday.

Biloxi Police Chief Bruce Dunagan, who helped serve on the organizing committee for the parade, said more than three dozen units will be in the parade, including the Keesler flag corps and band, restored military vehicles, a Coast Guard boat, a replica of a C-130, the Lucky Duck amphibious vessel, Ole Biloxi Tour Train, and a host of dignitaries.

“We call it the George Higginbotham parade,” Dunagan said, referring to the Biloxian who was wounded in action in World War II at Okinawa and received his Purple Heart in a ceremony in 1995.

“George has invested his time and money into creating this monument, and it’s a beautiful monument,” said Dunagan, himself a Vietnam veteran of the 101st Airborne before returning home and becoming part of the 82nd Airborne. “This is something that is for the military heroes of the past, present and future.”

The memorial was erected in Glennan Park in 2004. Its black granite face displays the names and photographs of the 70 local recipients of the Purple Heart. Flags of each of the seven uniformed services fly overhead, and Harrison County beautification workers have planted flowers in the shape of a purple heart.

After the parade Saturday, a 1 p.m. program will be staged at the monument, where the national president of the Military Order of the Purple Heart will speak, along with U.S. Congressman Gene Taylor and Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway.