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WWII vets to be honored Sunday

At the Veterans Wall of Honor this weekend, there will be a call to preserve, and honor, the legacy of the men and women who were among those serving the nation in WWII.

Bugles Across America has organized a program to commemorate the 66th anniversary of the end of World War II. It is scheduled for Sunday, at 3 p.m.

"They lived through the Depression, World War I and World War II, and rebuilt our country as well as other countries," said Jim Houston, state assistant director for Bugles Across America. "It's important that we remember them for their service. They've given us what we have today, in being able to live in a free country."

Members of Bugles Across America often are called upon to play "Taps" at military funerals, at no cost to the family of the person being honored.

Sunday's event is part of the "Keep the Spirit of ‘45 Alive!" endeavor, to establish a day of remembrance for the World War II generation, said Henry County spokesperson, Julie Hoover-Ernst.

"'Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive!' is a non-profit, non-partisan initiative to preserve the legacy of the men and women of the Greatest Generation so that their example of courage, self-sacrifice and commitment to community can help inspire a renewal of national unity in America at a time when our country once again must come together to meet historic challenges."

Jim Houston, of McDonough, said he is unsure how many World War II veterans live in Henry County, but added that last year, a Veterans Day program in Stockbridge produced 12, to 14 veterans of the war, who lived in the city at that time.

About 200 people are expected to attend Sunday's service, which will include a wreath-laying ceremony, and performances the Bethany Baptist Church Celebration Choir and Orchestra, Hoover-Ernst said. Representatives from the Civil Air Patrol Color Guard will also be in attendance at the event.

Guest speakers will include U.S. Army Reserve Col. Donald G. Amburn, Henry County Commission Chairman Elizabeth "B.J." Mathis, and U.S. Navy Gunners Mate 1st Class Clifford Dunaway, Sr.

"[Dunaway] served on the USS Atlanta until it was sunk the Japanese on Nov. 13, 1942," said Hoover-Ernst.

Dunaway, of Morrow, was 21 when he entered the military.

"I had tried to enter the Navy and the Coast Guard before the war, but I was a little bit underweight," he said. "When the emergency came at Pearl Harbor, the [local paper] ran a front page ad with a picture of a cruiser in the water, the USS Atlanta. Georgia boys could enlist for that particular ship.

"I figured that would be my last chance to get in the Navy, so I went to the recruiting office and said I wanted to join," Dunaway continued. "They took me on a moment's notice, and before the day was over, I was on a train heading to Norfolk, Va., for boot camp. I think just about everyone in the United States pitched in during the war effort."

Dunaway served in the Navy from October 1941, to November 1945. "I got out of the Navy without a scratch," Dunaway said.

Now 91, Dunaway said he is one of two survivors from USS Atlanta living in the Atlanta area, the other residing in Gainesville. He said Sunday's event will serve to educate younger Americans.

"We're all getting older and dying out," he said. "The generations coming along now don't know what World War II was. A lot of them don't know when it was. I think our younger generations should be aware of what went on."

There were 2,079,000 World War II veterans still living in May of 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

For more information, contact Jim Houston at (678) 432-3485 or (404) 557-4041, or e-mail at jimhouston66@charter.net.