Salute to Veterans

Published 8:00 pm Saturday, November 11, 2017

The service of America’s veterans has inspired the nation, and how we take care of and remember them in the future can impact the future of the country’s military forces charged with maintaining the freedoms we enjoy, the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District’s commander said.

Col. Michael Derosier addressed a group of about 200 people attending Vicksburg’s Veterans Day program at the War Memorial Rose Garden. The event was one of three honoring Warren County’s veterans Saturday. The observance kicked off with a breakfast at the Vicksburg Convention Center followed by a parade that preceded the memorial service.

“Today is a day marked by words such as devotion, patriotism, honor, selfless service, sacrifice, loyalty and courage,” Derosier said. “Words that have been solidified by actions for over 200 years and allowed the United States to demonstrate that we are indeed the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

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But our nation’s history is an unfinished story, and freedom is always precarious, he added.

“As we gather today, the United States has been at war for more than 16 years. We now have the largest population of young veterans since the Vietnam War. Also worth noting is that members of the active military, the guard and reserves as well as hundreds of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civilians are providing assistance to Puerto Rico and Virgin Island as they recover from hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“We have forces serving in over 140 countries today,” he added.

“Make no doubt, our future service members observe how we take care of our veterans as they consider serving themselves, and our ability to man the all-volunteer force of the future depends partly on our support of today’s veterans.”

He quoted President Calvin Coolidge, “The Nation that forgets its defenders will soon be forgotten.”

Derosier said America’s veterans have lived uncommon lives under a common banner, “A love of country and service to nation. Therefore, it is fitting that we pause as a nation and as a community to recognize their service and sacrifices. You, our nation’s heroes, you inspire us.”

Recalling his own experience, he discussed how his grandfather’s service in World War II and his father’s service in the military inspired his decision to serve.

“Little did I know at that time in my youth that (it) would provide the foundation for my own career in military,” he said. “And upon that foundation would be layers; 25 years of inspiration that comes from serving alongside veterans from Vietnam, Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Thank you to all of our veterans who have left an indelible mark upon our great nation.”

Veterans help themselves to breakfast at the annual Veterans Breakfast at the Vicksburg Convention Center Saturday. (Courtland Wells | The Vicksburg Post)

At the Vicksburg Convention Center, 125 veterans attended the Veterans Day breakfast sponsored by the convention center.

Because Veterans Day fell on the weekend, the morning meal was a change from the center’s traditional lunch program.

“This is nice, very nice,” said Albert McDonald of Vicksburg, who served 20 years in the Army from 1972 to 1992. “I lived through four wars and missed all four.”

He said he was a regular at the Veterans Day lunches. “This is different,” he said.

Tommy Oakes, 70, a Marine Corps veteran, attended the breakfast in his dress blues.

“I joined the Marines in 1966 through their delayed entry program; my parents had to sign for me,” he said.

Oakes’ tours of duty until he was discharged in 1970 included stations in Washington, D.C., where he served with the Corps’ Honor Guard, including law enforcement patrol duty in Washington during riots that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, and duty with the 3rd Marine Division in Vietnam in 1969.

“I participated in the last Marine offensive in the Vietnam War, and I was one of the first 50,000 Marines who were withdrawn from Vietnam.”

A native of Attala County, Oakes lives in Vicksburg. “I lured him down here,” his wife Emily said.

James Smith Jr., an Army Vietnam vet from Vicksburg, said the breakfast was “great. It’s especially nice that they’re allowing us to serve ourselves.”

“This is very nice; it’s a blessing for them to honor these veterans,” his wife, Shirleyne said.

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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