The day-long event will kick off with a massive parade winding its way from the Coosa Valley Fairgrounds, down Broad Street and is expected to wind up at Barron Stadium.
From there, participants will be able to walk across the river on the Chief John Ross Memorial Bridge to The Forum — where music, food and festivities will center around a “benefits superstore” set up by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Ancillary organizations also will have booths offering assistance and information to returning veterans and their families, and Operation Homefront will oversee kids’ activities and inflatables.
“St. Louis put their parade together in a month with just two guys, but we’re doing a lot more than that,” said organizer Linda Liles, Congressman Phil Gingrey’s constituent services representative in Rome.
Members of 20 or so groups involved in the planning met Monday at the Shanklin-Attaway American Legion Post in Rome, the third such meeting.
Chairman Larry Mrozinski, a retired colonel and veterans outreach coordinator for the Georgia GOP, said offers of help and donations are continuing to come in from around the state.
“There are cities that want to come and march on Broad Street,” he said. “Everyone I talk to wants in on this, and we’re reaching out to everyone. This is a Georgia event.”
Gov. Nathan Deal, Gingrey and Congressman Tom Graves are already signed up as special guests and the Wounded Warrior Project will be busing in soldiers and families from Forts Benning, Stewart and Gordon.
Parade floats confirmed so far include the Tuskeegee Airmen, scale models of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Iwo Jima monument, and a moving wall with the names of every Georgian killed in the Iraq War. Both the wall and a corresponding map of the state will be made out of simulated granite.
“The map is set up so that, as each fallen soldier is named, their town will light up,” Liles said. “It’s going to be awesome.
Jan Johnson, mother of Armuchee High graduate Spc. Justin Johnson who was killed in Iraq in 2004, said the Patriot Guard and Warriors’ Watch riders will be there.
Johnson, a co-chair of the committee, was joined by Donna Blair of Calhoun, widow of 1st Sgt. John Blair who was killed in 2009.
While the event won’t be widely publicized until April, committee members — from the 4H and American Legion to the Young Marines, ROTC and Georgia National Guard — are starting to notify their state organizations.
Rome Mayor Evie McNiece and Floyd County Commissioner Eddie Lumsden also chair subcommittees and plan to send invitations to their counterparts in all 159 counties.