VETERANS CELEBRATED: City comes together for those who served

Published 10:22 am Thursday, November 12, 2015

A parade, ceremony and luncheon marked a jovial morning for America’s veterans in Vicksburg.

On a sunny and clear Wednesday morning, the city of Vicksburg honored its veterans in the Spirit of Vicksburg Veterans Day Parade. The parade through downtown kicked off the day’s events with just as many veterans in the audience looking on as there were in the parade walking and riding through town.

The Army-Navy Club, American Legion Tyner Ford Post 213, the American Legion Auxiliary and the Department of Veterans Affairs all had vehicles and representatives taking the streets to greet and thank other veterans.

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Willie Patterson Jr. is a Vietnam veteran who served in the army. He was shot in the hip while serving the country and now deals with arthritis because of the wound. He comes to the parade every year he is able and enjoys seeing city officials and the community showing support.

“I don’t think the country as a whole shows enough respect to veterans,” Patterson said. “I think veterans of all wars did a tremendous job.”

The Vicksburg Cruisers joined in the fun taking their antique vehicles for a spin, and the National Park Service carted a cannon through downtown.

“It really is emotional for me,” Patterson said. “When I saw that cannon it brought back a lot of memories.”

Both the Vicksburg High School Pride Band and the Warren Central Big Blue Band played patriotic music along the streets of downtown as JROTC units from both schools marched.

The Pre-K and kindergarten classes from First Presbyterian Church walked down the street to watch the parade of law enforcement, city officials, veterans and bands.

Five and a half-year-old Grant Gattle said this was his first Veterans Day parade.

“I liked it,” Gattle said. “I wanted to see it because it’s my first time.”

He had learned a little bit about veterans in his class yesterday.

“They fight for us,” Gattle said.


The annual Veterans Day Ceremony at the Memorial Rose Garden was the next stop on the beautiful fall day.

“Every day is a day we should set aside to recognize our veterans,” leader commander Willie Glasper said.

Army veteran Richard Clark served for five years and came to the ceremony to honor soldiers because he understands what they went through.

“Glad to have served and protect the country,” Clark said. “I did what I had to do. Thankful to have made it back to keep serving.”

Warren Central and Vicksburg High School’s JROTC presented the colors at the ceremony that opened with the national anthem, an invocation, the Pledge of Allegiance and words of welcome from different American Legion members.

The Southern Heritage Air Foundation presented a military flyover, and Mayor George Flaggs Jr. read the proclamation announcing the acknowledgement of Veterans Day in Vicksburg.

The speaker was U.S. Army Maj. Andrell J. Hardy, a professor of military science at Alcorn State University with a list of accomplishments and service to the country.

“Being offered the opportunity to be the guest speaker at a Veterans Day ceremony was a dream come true, and I’m absolutely honored and privileged to be a part of it,” Hardy said.

He started his speech acknowledging the sacrifice of veteran’s families, and read a C.S. Lewis quote explaining the plight of an active soldier. Hardy then referenced the foiled terror plot this summer when three American’s took down an armed gunman on a train bound for Paris.

“There’s always, always been a select group of Americans willing to fight and willing to die for a cause greater than their own self preservation,” Hardy said. “Those men and women are you sitting in the audience.”

Hardy then launched into a story of the soldier’s journey from beginning to end in a list of acronyms that almost serve as an inside joke between those who have served and empathize with each other.

“I wanted to get the veterans to see and remember some of those good times, those acronyms, those sayings that only their friends and buddies talk about,” Hardy said.

He urged the crowd to support Gold Star families, wounded warriors and homeless veterans. He said one day is not enough, and he tries to honor a veteran everyday.

“Without them, I couldn’t do what I do,” Hardy said.

The crowd sang along to “America” and later “God Bless America” with Glasper and listened to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” sung by Arnette Nash who dedicated it to World War II veterans like Percy Strothers. Linda Stevens of American Legion Auxiliary Post 213 recited the poem “In Flanders Field.” A 21-gun salute and taps rounded out the ceremony with a closing prayer and retirement of the colors.

“I want to thank the community for supporting a worthwhile cause,” Glasper said.

Thirty years ago Glapser asked the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to recognize Veterans Day, and he is honored it has continued to this day.

“We can never do enough for our veterans,” Glasper said.

Liberty Luncheon

The Vicksburg Convention Center hosted the Liberty Luncheon for veterans. The staff prepared to feed 350 people, and by 12:30 p.m. they had taken more than 200 tickets putting them on track to hit the maximum number. A meal of barbecue chicken, potato salad, bread, beans and dessert was available to those who served.

“I think it’s going good,” Sue Bagby administrative and special events coordinator said.

A Veterans Affairs mobile health unit was set up upstairs for veterans to make sure the veterans are signed up for all eligible benefits. Multiple booths were set up around the dining room from organizations such as Disabled American Veterans to WIN Job Center and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, to offer the veterans information on services.

Beth Fields with the Warrior Bonfire Program was giving free hugs to all veterans.

“We’re trying to catch all of them that come in,” Fields said. “They can get a double dose if they want to.”

Patty Mekus of the Southern Heritage Air Foundation started the program last year.

“This is a way to say thank you for your service,” Fields said.