Honoring those who served

Published 11:47 pm Friday, November 11, 2016

They gathered on the east side of Monroe Street, some standing in the street and some seated on rows of chairs, waiting for the presentation of colors that would mark the beginning of Vicksburg’s annual Veterans Day Memorial Ceremony in the Memorial Rose Garden that split Monroe Street east of the City Hall Annex.

American Legion Auxiliary members sat in the uniforms of blue coats and hats. Around them men and women milled around in military and law enforcement uniforms, and wearing ball caps displaying their old unit or stated their combat experience, like “Vietnam Veteran.”

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There was Eddie Williams, a retired Navy chief petty officer, who stood out from the rest, clad in his white uniform displaying medals and his achievements as a surface warrior and a member of the fleet air arm.

“I retired after 30 years,” said Williams, who has served on four aircraft carriers, the destroyer Turner Joy and the Wabash, a service ship. “Last year I was in the VA hospital and didn’t get to come.”

The reason for his uniform? “It’s Veterans Day,” he said.

The memorial ceremony was one of several events held in the city to honor the county’s veterans, living and dead. The ceremony was preceded by a parade along Washington Street, and ended with the Liberty Lunch at the Vicksburg Convention Center. Other events included a breakfast for veterans at Warren Central High School and Veterans Day programs at several schools.

“Everything has been great,” said Vietnam veteran Alvin Taylor as he enjoyed a lunch of barbeque chicken, beans and potato salad at the convention center. “The breakfast at Warren Central was wonderful and the program at Bowmar (Elementary) was very good. “

Air Force veteran Bob McCarley was also pleased with the program.

“It was all wonderful. It’s a great program they have,” he said.

Glenn Oliver, a retired Army colonel, said he makes it a point to attend the Veterans Day activities in the city.

“I appreciate the city and the county putting on this program and giving people an opportunity to express their appreciation to veterans,” he said.

Appreciation for the efforts of the country’s veterans was main theme of retired Army Col. Thomas Supler’s address during the memorial ceremony at the Memorial Rose Garden.

Reciting the oath men and women take when they enter the service, Supler told the assembly of veterans and visitors “It is directly because of those veterans who took that pledge that we are sitting here today in peace enjoying this beautiful Veterans Day ceremony.

“It is also because of the pledge we enjoy the many freedoms associated with the greatest country on earth. Because our veterans took the oath to support and defend ‘so help me God,’ our country affords people opportunities unparalleled across the globe.”

Veterans Day, he said, is intended to thank the living veterans for their service to our country, acknowledge their contributions to our national security, and underscore the fact that all those who served, not only those who died, have sacrificed and done their duty.

“When thinking of the many heroes here today and those who are here only in spirit, it is impossible not to feel the awe, the enormity of what we encountered,” he said. “Our military veterans possess courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity, all the qualities needed to serve more than oneself.

“No matter what generation our soldiers came from, they didn’t ask to leave the home to fight on distant lands, most were called to service and didn’t go to war because they loved fighting, they were called to be part of something bigger than themselves,” he said. “They were ordinary people who responded in extraordinary way in extreme times. They rose to protect a nation which has given them, us so much.”

That tradition continues with the troops deployed in harm’s way, he added.

“More Americans step forward to say, ‘I’m ready to serve,’” Supler said. “They follow in footsteps of generations of Americans who fight for our right to live free.

“Nov. 11 is a day of the veteran to set aside each year to honor the brave men and women who have served and continue serve the nation as members of the armed forces. Today, the people throughout the country will gather to remember to honor and to pay gratitude to those who have served our country. Our gathering here today is just one small spark in the flame of pride that burns across this nation today and every day.

“Let us never forget their valor and their duty honor and their love of country as we honor their memories and bestow upon them and everyone who continues to serve America our deepest and most sincere love and respect.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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