By Curt Yeomans
A dozen Clayton State University students and faculty members gathered in a classroom at the school on Wednesday morning for a brief ceremony to remember the men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Services.
But, for some of the veterans, it was the service men and women who died in the line of duty that came to mind on Veterans Day.
"Every time I get this close to the American Flag, my heart gets a flutter, because I think of all the people who sacrificed their lives so that we can be here today," said Clayton State Assistant Professor of Marketing David Furman, the faculty sponsor of the school's Student Veterans Association.
Veterans Day is celebrated every Nov. 11, to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the 1918 armistice that ended the fighting during World War I.
At Clayton State, Veterans Day was marked not only with the brief morning ceremony, but also with a reception in a meeting room at Clayton State's library, and the signing of "Thank You" posters by students. The posters will be sent to the Department of Veterans Affairs for distribution to local VA hospitals, said Retired Army Master Sgt. Dennis Brown, the president of Clayton State's Student Veterans Association.
Brown, who retired in 2005, after 24 years in the Army, said his thoughts have recently been on the people stationed at Fort Hood, in Texas, where there was recently a shooting that resulted in the deaths of several soldiers.
Brown was stationed at Fort Hood twice during his military career. The first time was during Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s. The second time was from 2002 to 2003, before he was deployed to Afghanistan.
"When that [shooting happened], my first thought was to call people I knew who were still stationed there to see if they were all right," Brown said. "It wasn't abroad. It was here, at home, and that's one thing that really hurts about it."
Another veteran, Cpl. Quartez Thomas, an Iraq war veteran who is a sophomore at Clayton State, was thinking of the soldiers who have died in the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan on Wednesday. Thomas was in the Army from 2003 to 2007, serving in Iraq from 2004 to 2005.
"A lot of people that I became close to over there lost their lives," Thomas said. "I wish everyone would look at that, rather than just the glory of fighting."
Across Morrow, one veteran of World War II also spent Wednesday reflecting on fallen comrades as an important anniversary in his life approaches. The veteran, Clifford B. Dunaway, Sr., 89, of Morrow, was on the U.S.S. Atlanta when it was sunk nearly 67 years ago during the Battle of Guadalcanal on Nov. 13, 1942.
He said that thinking of his former shipmates is no different than how he spends every other day of the year, though.
Dunaway said that out of the 750 sailors and officers onboard the Atlanta during the attack, one-third of them were either killed or injured during the battle. He said he saw the corpses of some of his friends lying across the deck of the ship. In some cases, the bodies were disfigured beyond recognition.
"I can see those boys lying there on the deck, they were dead," Dunaway said. "You'd eat with these guys, go on liberty with them, work with them, play cards with them, and then you see them lying there ... it's a pretty horrible scene. They sort of stay on your mind throughout the years."