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It’s A Star Spangled Christmas: Countdown To Annual Parade

It’s A Star Spangled Christmas:  Countdown To Annual Parade

It’s A Star Spangled Christmas: Countdown To Annual Parade

The 39th Annual LaGrange Christmas parade, sponsored by the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber, will highlight holiday traditions that are a part of the American way of life—traditions that reflect freedom, patriotism, community spirit, family, faith and service to others. Befitting the theme of “Star Spangled Christmas,” the 2015 parade will be led by grand marshal Bernard Bledsoe, local coordinator for the Toys for Tots Program of the Marine Corps League PFC George Eiland Detachment 1040 on December 3 at 6 pm.

In addition to the entry fee, all participants must contribute an unwrapped child’s toy that will be distributed by Bledsoe and his team of reservists. “I have acted as the ‘bookkeeper’for our Detachment on our Toys for Tots campaigns since the beginning,” noted Bledsoe. “Jim Sexton and Charles Waller have been equally active in leading this project, but the success of our campaigns has depended on the support and assistance of the other members and the generosity of the citizens in our community.”

The local Detachment joined forces with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marines, USMCR in Montgomery, Alabama, to serve the Troup County area beginning in 2000. “Knowing that the Empty Stocking Funds of LaGrange and of Hogansville and the Salvation Army had a decades old, proven record of identifying and serving the children of this area, we met with then United Way Director Ruth Ellen Trotter to offer our support,” explained Bledsoe. “Our plan was, and remains, to collect toys to add to those already being obtained by these organizations so more children and families can be served.”

Parade spectators will have an opportunity to participate

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Bernard & Judy Bledsoe with members of the local Marine Corps League.

It’s A Star Spangled Christmas: Countdown To Annual Parade

in the gift exchange. Volunteers for Toys for Toys will follow Santa Claus at the end of the parade and collect toys. Spectators are asked to hold the unwrapped toys until the volunteers walk by their area along the parade route. The volunteer will take the toy to the vehicles where the toys are being collected. Toys may also be dropped off at the Chamber office.

Bledsoe indicates this is a great opportunity for parents. He believes “if you are a parent or grandparent and want to teach a child about the true meaning of Christmas, let the child pick out a toy to give to someone else. The best kind of giving is a gift to someone in need.”

Bledsoe serves as a great role model for the youth in our community. Born and educated in Raleigh, North Carolina, he participated in the Boy Scouts programs, earning the rank of Eagle Scout in December 1951. He joined the United States Marine Corps at the age of 17 while still in high school. He attended North Carolina State College on the GI Bill, majoring in chemical engineering. From 1955 to 1959, he remained in the local Marine Corps Reserve unit, advancing to the rank of Sergeant, earned his college degree and completed “Platoon Leaders Class” Office Candidate training.

At the end of May 1959, Bledsoe was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the US Marine Corps. Serving on active duty until 1964, he had assignments at Camp Lejeune, in the Mediterranean and several times to the Caribbean, including his last deployment for the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was later transferred to Japan to serve with the First Marine Air Wing and then to the Marine Corps Air Station in El Toro, California to serve with Headquarters, Air Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. Having been promoted to the rank of Captain, Bledsoe remained a Captain in the US Marine Corps Reserves for four years following his resignation from active duty.

A 38-year career in the management and finishing operations of Milliken & Company was next. After 12 years in Pendleton, South Carolina, Bledsoe, along with his wife, Judy, and their two sons, moved to LaGrange in 1977. Bledsoe served as the Technical Superintendent of the Live Oak Plant. He later managed Elm City, followed by Live Oak and then Milstar plants.

Community service has always been a part of Bledsoe’s life. “I was active in scouting for 45 years and have worked with the local American Red Cross and United Way for years.” In addition to his volunteer service to the local Marine Corps League. Bledsoe is a past Department of Georgia Commandant for the Marine Corps League and has been named “Marine of the Year” twice for the local Detachment, Georgia and the Southeast.

Despite the accolades that he has received, Bledsoe does not like the spotlight. “I have enjoyed the personal reward that I feel from being a part of the Toys for Tots campaign each year and the great relationships that I have developed,” noted Bledsoe. “The community and all of the members of our Detachment who work so hard year after year deserve the recognition for the success of this project, not me.”