Hilliard urges veterans to write about experiences at Vicksburg ceremony

Published 4:03 pm Thursday, November 11, 2021

Veterans need to keep a record of their experiences in the military to help others learn not only about their family’s legacy of military service but also the nation’s, Col. Robert Hilliard told about 100 people attending Thursday’s Veterans Day memorial ceremony at American Legion Post 3.

The program, usually held at the city’s rose garden, was forced indoors by rain, which forced the cancelation of the annual Veterans Day parade.

“This day belongs to all of you,” Hilliard, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District told the group, which included a large number of veterans. “You are the ones who chose to serve your country; every one of you had a reason for enlisting and every story is different.”

Recalling his family history, Hilliard said its legacy of military service is traced back to the Civil War.

He said, however, that finding information about his grandfather’s service in World War II was sketchy.

“My grandfather was a company commander with the 116th infantry; he arrived in Normandy in July 1944 and went to Brittany to Aachen, where he was injured.

“He died in 1997, the year after I got my commission, and the one thing I regret is never asking him about his service.”

The only thing offering a hint of his service, Hilliard said, is a notepad on his grandfather’s desk that outlined some of his activity during the war. Later, he said, he and his wife found some other information on his grandfather’s service, but more information has been unavailable.

“Today, what I want to say to your veterans is tell your story,” Hilliard said. “Write it down. People want to know; they just don’t know what to ask. I didn’t know what to ask until I was in the military myself and then I wanted to go back and ask, ‘How did you do this? What did you do here?’

“Our nation needs that; tell your story. We need that; the next generation needs that.”

He pointed to a table of JROTC students from Vicksburg High School.

“They need it; that’s the next gray line.”

Writing their stories, Hilliard said, will bring back memories and help bring back memories of friends.

“One thing we can agree on is that our military makes us strong and we are thankful that we still have men and women who protect our country.”

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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