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Local military veterans touched by recognition

Steve Lowery sat under a clear blue sky, with flags waving in the chilly breeze at the Veterans Wall of Honor in McDonough. The U.S. Navy, Vietnam veteran expressed gratitude for those who came to Henry County, Friday, to honor him and others, on Veterans Day.

"Veterans put their lives on the line for the freedom of this country," said Lowery, 65, of McDonough. "I think it's very grand that they keep appreciating the people who do this, even through today in Afghanistan. We need to honor those people that serve."

Lowery's comments came moments prior to a Veterans Day Celebration at Heritage Park. Military veterans from various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces were among the hundreds of people in attendance for the annual event, which was sponsored by Marine Corps League Detachment 1339, in McDonough.

The ceremony included patriotic music performed by the Strong Rock Christian School band, and a Presentation of the Colors by students in the Luella High School Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Unit.

Lowery added that he is thankful for Henry County's continued efforts to recognize the sacrifices of the military through the Veterans Wall.

"This whole complex here is just wonderful," he said. "It's just an honor, especially the ones that fell to support this country."

Boo Boucher, of Locust Grove, said he served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, and was at the Veterans Wall on Friday. He said discussing his time in the military during the controversial conflict, is still not an easy task.

"It's kind of hard to share," said Boucher, 69. "It's easier to talk to someone who had been there."

Nevertheless, he, too, was thankful for those who went to Heritage Park to show their support for the military. "It gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling," said Boucher. "I appreciate their interest. It makes you feel good about them."

The sentiment echoed throughout the county, at different observances recognizing military veterans. Met by a biting Friday morning chill, many joined students from Stockbridge Elementary School in expressing their support of veterans during the Veterans Day Parade in Stockbridge.

The parade included veterans, young and old, as well as various support organizations such as the McDonough Detachment 1339 of the Marine Corps League.

Members of the Stockbridge High School Marching Band, and Navy JROTC Unit, also took part in the annual affair. The unit's color guard did double duty, having presented the colors earlier Friday morning at Austin Road Elementary School to open its annual "Take a Vet to School Day" assembly.

The school assembly recognized roughly three dozen veterans. Among them was 86-year-old Charles Blanford, a World War II vet, who was invited by three of his great-grandchildren. His veteran son, John Blanford, also attended the assembly.

John Blanford, 60, said he served during an "unpopular" Vietnam War and understands the importance of recognizing veterans' contributions to the world, as well as those of the men and women currently serving.

"I wish them the best," said John Blanford. "We appreciate everything they've done. For us, it wasn't a very pleasant time. [But] I hope we — the leaders of this country — use better judgment when it comes to our military."

The Blanfords and other invited veterans were treated to breakfast at Austin Road Elementary, following Friday morning's assembly. Army Spc. Josh Cook, 31, sat down for breakfast with his 6-year-old son, Ethan, and 8-year-old daughter, Keily. He relished his time with his children, days before his son's seventh birthday, as he recently returned from a month serving in Germany.

"For what we do, it's not a walk in the park," said Cook. "I believe for all the service and sacrifice that everybody puts into the military, any kind of recognition is appreciated."