By Ed Brock
Every Veteran's Day is special, but this year it seems even more so to veterans like John H. Borst.
"It is more special because of what we're doing in Iraq," said Borst who served as a Pharmacist Mate 2nd Class in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
The impending attack on the rebel stronghold of Fallujah in Iraq was on Borst's mind during Saturday's Veteran's Day observance in Riverdale.
"I just hope there aren't many deaths over there and they all come home safe. I pray for their families," Borst said.
Fallujah was on the minds of others there as well, including U.S. Representative David Scott, D-Georgia, the keynote speaker at the event.
"Let us pray magnificently, let us pray like we've never prayed before," Scott told the crowd that gathered at the city's veteran's monument behind the Riverdale Municipal Complex on Church Street.
Saturday's ceremony was the first Veteran's Day celebration Scott has attended other than the dedication of the "Walk of Heroes" Veteran's Memorial Park in Rockdale County that was held earlier this week. Veteran's Day will be celebrated nationally on Thursday.
"We cannot say enough good words about our veterans," Scott said before the ceremony.
Along with the battle for Fallujah, other challenges facing the country, such as the possible chaos that might follow the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, should give Americans a more appreciation for their soldiers in combat and this day to honor them, Scott said.
Riverdale Mayor Phaedra Graham also spoke at the event.
"Today we honor people who gave their lives, they gave their spirits, they gave their souls," Graham said.
Riverdale Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3650 sponsored the event. Army Col. Angela Manos, commander of Army Garrison Fort McPherson in Atlanta and Fort Gillem in Forest Park, also spoke at the event and said that today's soldiers have the same warrior spirit as their predecessors.
"But they also have in their heard a very compassionate spirit and we see that demonstrated all around the world," Manos said.
Other guests included Clayton County Commission Chairman-elect Eldrin Bell and members of the Tuskegee Airmen. World War II veteran and VFW Post 3650 Commander Helen Denton thanked the Riverdale High School Reserve Officer Training Corps for coming as well.
Veteran John Dumas of Jonesboro, who served as an Army Spc. 4th Class in the Vietnam War, said the ceremony was wonderful and that there is more respect today for veterans.
"More these days than during the Vietnam War," Dumas said.
Members of the Dixon Grove Baptist Church on Fielder Road near Jonesboro also held their inaugural Veteran's Day celebration there led by church member and retired Army Col. Clarence Grant Jr.
"The church was full. Veterans were stretched from one side of the building to the other," Grant said.
The families of veterans were given American flag lapel pins and Grant gave each member a brochure on the history of Veteran's Day. Begun in 1921 as Armistice Day, Congress changed the name to Veteran's Day in 1968, Grant said, but they also changed the date to October.
"It soon became apparent that the date of Nov. 11 had historic significance to the American people," Grant said. "So in 1978 they returned it to its traditional date."
Grant said he hopes the brochure will give the people who attended the ceremony a better appreciation of the event.
"I jokingly told them to take it home and read it because maybe next Sunday we'll have a pop quiz," Grant said.
More Veteran's Day events are scheduled for this week.
Veterans and any other interested people are invited to attend a Veterans Day luncheon at Fort Gillem's Getaway Club Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. To reserve a $15 ticket, call Laura Chapman at the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce at 678-610-4021.
Public safety officials will participate in a Georgia Special Forces Run from Duluth to Savannah, Nov. 11-13 to honor members of the military. Operation One-Voice is a nonprofit association of police, firefighters, emergency services and citizens formed to honor the military.
The 338-mile run will take 10-12 runners about 50 hours. The trail is expected to come through Henry County and local law enforcement officers are invited to participate as the event winds through the area.
The Dixie Wing of the Commemorative Air Force is sponsoring the Second Annual "A Flight With Eagles Symposium" at 2 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Historical Airpower Facility, Falcon Field, Peachtree City. The program features World War II veterans of the 365th Fighter Group "Hell Hawks" who flew the P-47 Thunderbolt against Nazi Germany. Rare P-47 and other vintage aircraft, vehicles and memorabilia will be on display. Proceeds to benefit "Education Through Living History," a WWII history program available to schools and youth groups free of charge. Tickets are $30 in advance, $40 at the door. Students are $15 or free when accompanied by a paid adult (one student per adult). Reserved tables $300. For more information, visit dixiewing.org or call (567) 364-1110.
All government buildings and banks will be closed Thursday and no mail will be delivered.