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Henry honors veterans at Wall of Honor

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

More than 250 residents, many of them veterans, turned out to pay tribute to soldiers during the county's annual Veterans Day Celebration.

The ceremony was held Thursday, at the Veterans Wall of Honor, at Heritage Park in McDonough.

One of those in attendance was Vietnam veteran, Russ Vermillion, a member of the Marine Corps League Detachment 1339, in McDonough. "To a great extent, some of our veterans, from time to time, are forgotten, and it's a sad statement that during the year they're not recognized," Vermillion, 62, said before the ceremony. "They give them one day a year, and to a lot of people, that's the only time that they recognize veterans.

"It's important that people understand what [they] did for this country, what they did for each individual. Had it not been for these veterans, we wouldn't have the freedoms and liberties that we do now."

Music before and during the program was provided by band students from Strong Rock High School in Locust Grove. The Presentation of Colors was given by the Henry County High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), and the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Cadet Clare Omatsone, JROTC battalion commander.

Jerry Goodson, Chaplain for the American Legion Post 55 in McDonough, gave the invocation, and Bill Hightower, Post 55 commander, welcomed the crowd and gave opening remarks. "I'm pleased that so many of you have taken time to come here to honor America's veterans," said Goodson. "This ceremony is [in] remembrance today, and is dedicated to America's military service veterans. As I look around, I see many veterans that probably feel as I do, that your military service, whether it was in time of war, or peace, whether called upon to serve, or voluntarily join, your service was one of the most important things you did in your life."

McDonough Mayor Billy Copeland, and Henry County Commission Chairman Elizabeth "B.J." Mathis, also spoke, followed by an address from Col. Thomas M. Carden, Jr., commander of the 560th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade.

Mayor Copeland commended the choice of venues for the activities. "As I recall, this is the 30th annual ceremony [here], and the first time that this event has been held outside of the [McDonough] Square Park. To have the Wall of Honor as a backdrop, is certainly fitting," he said.

"Nov. 11, is a special day for all Americans, as we join together to pay tribute to those who have served faithfully, and others who have sacrificed their lives in the service of our country."

Mathis thanked the attendees for showing their support of veterans, by their presence at the Wall of Honor. "It is important to our board [of commissioners] that we recognize, honor, and appreciate the men and women who have dedicated themselves to the protection of our nation, and the preservation of our freedom," she said. "We have gathered here today, one of many gatherings across this county, for a ceremony with many from our community, to show our appreciation, to say thank you, for dedicating yourself to the protection of our nation ... We know it came at a personal cost to each and every one of you."

Carden said it is a relatively small segment of the population, who step up and choose military service to protect the nation's freedom, and that service and sacrifice is crucial to the country. "These men and women took action to serve as guardians of freedom and the American way of life," he said.

"Our veterans are the reason that our children can live without being stripped of their innocence by extremist organizations. Our veterans are the torch bearers of freedom and democracy."

He said soldiers take action when courage is needed. "Our television news channels are full of people with impressive-sounding titles and published articles, who are always ready to offer advice, but never ready to pick up a rifle and close with the enemy," he added. "When policy-makers finish talking, when debate has ceased, when negotiations have failed, and orders are given, it becomes the mission of the men and women in uniform to execute national policy. Action like this is proof positive that America means business."

The ceremony ended with the playing of "Taps" by Jim Houston, with Bugles Across America.

One county official in attendance was Henry County Tax Commissioner David Curry. Curry was accompanied by his 8-year-old son, Caleb, whom he said he brought to the ceremony to emphasize to him the importance of the sacrifices veterans make.

"I wanted to bring Caleb this morning so he could see why we've got the freedoms we've got," Curry said. "I don't think we do enough for our veterans, and I wanted Caleb to see some of the men and women that defend our country for us."