By Curt Yeomans
Area business leaders and elected officials gathered in Stockbridge, on Thursday, to pay tribute to veterans of the U.S. military, and those who are still serving on active duty.
The Clayton County Chamber of Commerce's 12th Annual Veterans Day Luncheon, which was held at the Eagle's Landing Country Club, was attended by approximately 250 people, including several active, and former, members of the military.
The Army Color Guard and the Army Ground Forces Band Woodwind Quintet, from Fort McPherson, participated in the ceremony by presenting the colors and performing the national anthem. The keynote address was given by retired Brig. Gen. Robert L. Stephens, Jr., who is the vice president for external relations at Clayton State University.
Stephens urged luncheon attendees to remember, and thank, veterans and active-duty members of the military for their service to the country.
"Remember the soldiers, sailors, airmen, members of the Coast Guard and Marines who wear the uniform and have bore the cost of defending this country, and securing peace," Stephens said. "On the hills of [Arlington National Cemetery, in Virginia], as well as in small towns across this nation, veterans should have a special place in our hearts, and in our minds."
Veterans Day is observed each year on Nov. 11, the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I in 1918. Stephens, who served in the U.S. Army for 31 years until he retired in 1993, said Veterans Day was first celebrated in the U.S. in 1919, the one-year anniversary of the signing of the armistice.
Until the early 1950s, the observance was known as Armistice Day. The name was changed to Veterans Day in 1954, reflecting the fact there were also veterans of World War II and the Korean War by that time, Stephens said.
"On Veterans Day 2009, it is still possible to thank at least one veteran of World War I," said Stephens, referring to 108-year-old Charles Town, W.Va., resident Frank Buckles, the last known American veteran of World War I. "I hope he knows the country still appreciates what he did during that war."
Clayton County Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Council member, retired Army Col. Fred Bryant, the emcee for the luncheon, said it is important to celebrate Veterans Day because there are still military conflicts going on in the world, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, where members of the U.S. military are deployed.
"We think it's important to remember our currently serving members of the military, as well as our veterans, for their service to the country," Bryant said. "With Fort Gillem in Forest Park, we thought it was only appropriate to have something ... to celebrate Veterans Day."
Some other, local Veterans Day-related events coming up in Clayton and Henry counties include:
* A Veterans Day celebration, featuring a speech by Stephens, on Wednesday, beginning at 10 a.m., at Forest Park City Hall, which is located at 745 Forest Parkway, in Forest Park.
* An outdoor ceremony at Clayton State University on Wednesday, beginning at 10 a.m., at the Lawson Amphitheater, on the school's campus in Morrow. The ceremony will include a keynote address from military veteran and Clayton State Assistant Professor of Marketing David Furman. Also on Wednesday, the university is inviting the public, particularly members of local Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, to attend a veterans reception on Main Street, in the school's James M. Baker University Center, from 10 a.m., to 12:30 p.m. Throughout the day, students and members of the public will able to write notes of gratitude on an "Appreciation Banner," which will be sent to the Department of Veterans Affairs.