And that was only the beginning of the official program of the sixth annual Honor Our Veterans Day Saturday at Candler Field Museum in Williamson.
“When I returned from Vietnam in 1967, I didn’t receive a warm welcome from anyone but my family,” said Candler Field Museum Director and Vietnam War veteran Ron Alexander. “Thank God that has changed. We now give them the respect that they deserve.”
The distinguished speaker of the program, ret. Lt. General Ron Helmley, also recognized the veterans of the United States Armed Forces as a very special group.
“Today is our day to remember those who have served and those who are still serving,” Helmley said. “Today we honor and embrace every warrior from every war.”
The commanding general of the United States Army Reserve told the audience how he met numerous service members who felt their contributions were rather small - only to tell them that their efforts are just as crucial as those of any other service member.
“Our democracy depends on the willingness of our finest men and women to serve. Military service in the United States is not a job. It’s a life of service and sacrifice,” he said. “This is the land of the free and the home of the brave, and we are free because of the brave.”
After the performance of patriotic songs by Sylvia Hollums, state Rep. and World War II veteran John Yates addressed the crowd, filling in for World War II Women’s Army Corps veteran Helen Denton, who became sick the night before the ceremony.
“It’s a great thing to be here today. I have great honor for all of you,” Yates said as he shared some of his experience as an Air Force pilot during the war. “Don’t let anybody kid you - war is hell.”
The Griffin High School JROTC Drill team also showcased its skills before all five branches of the Unites States Armed Forces - Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard - were recognized individually. Audience members lined up behind their service flags and walked past the stage while greeting and shaking hands with World War II veterans.
Toward the end of the program, the local Marine Corps League detachment performed a flag-folding ceremony and a rifle volley before playing taps. A missing-man formation concluded the event.