Veterans, community honor, respect those who gave all

Published 7:00 pm Monday, May 28, 2018

Dressed in Army green with camouflaged pants and displaying his combat infantryman badge and rifle expert medal on his shirt, Michael Sims stood at the corner of South and Washington streets early Monday morning talking with some members of American Legion Post 213.

A Vietnam veteran, Sims served in the 1st and 37th Armored Division during his tour of duty in Southeast Asia.

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“I was in the infantry until they grabbed me and taught me how to drive a tank,” he said. “After Vietnam, I went to Germany. When I got back, I was in the 412th (Theater Engineer Command) for 18 years. I worked at the Waterways Experiment Station for 33 years. Now they call it ERDC (Engineer Research and Development Center).”

Sims was one of the many city residents who lined Washington Street for Monday’s Memorial Day Parade, sponsored by American Legion Posts 3 and 213, and the Vicksburg-Warren County Memorial Day Committee.

The parade, which featured military vehicles, antique cars, veterans groups and area officials, made its way up Washington Street to the cheers of the spectators who waved small American flags and waved to the people in the vehicles.

“I’ve been coming to this parade ever since I’ve been back,” Simms said. “It’s a shame more people don’t come out to this and participate in this. They need to support our veterans.”

Monday’s parade was the first of three Memorial Day events held by the Legion posts and the Memorial Day Committee under the theme of  “Lest We Forget.”

The program’s theme was highlighted during the memorial program at the Vicksburg Auditorium and later at the wreath laying ceremony at the National Cemetery at the Vicksburg National Military Park, which also commemorated the 150th anniversary of the founding of Memorial Day in 1868.

“We should never forget; we should always remember,” Arnold Taylor of American Legion Post 213 said as he prepared to name the Legionnaires who have died since Memorial Day 2017.

The Rev. Rudy Smith said many people today have forgotten about the nation’s veterans and servicemen and women.

“We’ve got people who died so we have the right to vote,” he said. “And we’ve got folks old enough to vote who don’t even go register to vote. We should not forget what they did for us.

“We must not forget the people who gave up the rest of their lives, who gave up all that they had to go to another country; we cannot forget them. Not just say, ‘I salute you’ on Veterans and Memorial Day, but whenever you see a veteran who’s in need, we should come to their aid.”

Master Sgt. Richard Broussard with the 412th, the program’s featured speaker, said American’s need to remember those who died in the country’s defense, adding, “They will never be forgotten.”

“I was asked earlier today, what special comment I would make,” he said. “And what I said then is exactly what I feel now.

“Memorial Day is kind of thought of as an extra day off by most people, and I just ask those people who are sitting around a barbeque — which is fine — (to) take moment of silence to remember those family members and the fallen to say, ‘Thank you.’ A moment of silence; a prayer. We should all salute them.”

Broussard reminded the audience there are many people who went off to combat and not returned, and 18,000 of those are listed as missing in action. He recalled the tragedy of the cruiser USS Indianapolis, which carried the components of the atomic bomb to the island of Tinian in the Pacific and was sunk by a Japanese submarine on its return trip.

Because the ship was under radio silence, its sinking was not discovered for several days, when the men were discovered floating in the water by an airplane. By that time, many of the crew had died because of exposure, salt water poisoning and sharks.

Families and spouses, Broussard said, understand the risk those in the service take, “But no one is ever prepared for that knock at the door.”

Charlie Tolliver, commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, wondered if people really recognize Memorial Day as a day to recognize and remember those who died defending their country.

“Perhaps a reminder is due,” he said. “It is the duty of each and every veteran to relay that message as well as you who are in attendance here today. Sacrificing is meaningless without remembrance. America’s collective consciousness demands that all citizens recall and be aware of the death of their fellow country men during war time.”

Willie Glasper, state president of the Sons of the American Legion and chairman of the Memorial Day committee, said the 39th edition of the observance went well.

“Good attendance; I really think everyone turned out and supported it community-wise, visitors were able to be a part of it. Each year, it’s just a great event thanks to the support we get from the community, city, county, the sheriff and police department. We were happy to see the city’s leaders there, including the fire department. It shows unity. It’s been 39 years, but a great 39 years.”

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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