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Community pays tribute to veterans

Soldiers, families thanked for service

POSTED: November 13, 2009 10:57 a.m.
Photo by Denise Etheridge/

Veteran Samuel Lopez Sr. salutes during the ceremony.

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The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6602 paid tribute to all American men and women who served in past wars and those who continue to serve today during a somber Veterans Day ceremony Wednesday at the Hinesville post.
Veterans who fought in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and the nation’s current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan stood to be recognized by their brothers and sisters in arms. Although some of the older veterans rose with the help of canes or were confined to wheelchairs, they related easily to their younger counterparts. Younger service men and women, some who were active duty, made sure to thank the veterans who blazed the trail before them.
Command Sgt. Maj. James Ervin offered a hearty handshake and a sincere “Thank you for serving” to many of the veterans who attended the VFW event.
Ervin’s boss, Col. Kevin Milton, garrison commander of Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, was the guest speaker.
Milton said Veterans Day is a reminder to those who have not served that “freedom is not free.”
The garrison commander said veterans understand the significance of comrades in arms who made “the ultimate sacrifice” and died in the line of duty. He continued, saying service men and women, and their families, make sacrifices so their fellow citizens can enjoy the liberties of daily life, which are often taken for granted.
“We pay and we pay gladly,” Milton said.
The garrison commander acknowledged the various reasons veterans may have had for joining the military. Some joined involuntarily through the draft and some joined voluntarily to receive educational benefits or for “personal” reasons, Milton said. Whether they joined voluntarily or not, all veterans deserve their country’s appreciation, he said.
Milton stressed that no matter a veteran’s reason for joining the service, once he or she “rubbed shoulders” with their fellow service members, a bond was forged. This camaraderie is like no other, he said.
“It’s all about the man on your left and your right,” Milton said.
The garrison commander said veterans participated in events that changed the course of American history.
“It’s only after a passage of time that you realize how significant that action was,” he said.
Milton also spoke of current troop deployments, an issue area veterans are familiar with.
“The 3rd ID is in the middle of another deployment to Iraq,” he said.
“The 2nd Brigade just deployed and the 1st Brigade is getting ready to deploy. The Combat Aviation Brigade is deployed to Afghanistan.”
The garrison commander said 420 soldiers who died in current conflicts are memorialized on Fort Stewart.
“I hope you take the time to walk down Warriors’ Walk,” he said.
Milton told veterans they are role models for the next generation, and spoke of how most veterans share “the good times” but don’t readily share the tough times.
“You never share the bad experiences … that pain. Unless they ask you for it,” he said.
VFW members agreed their service was an invaluable personal experience, and some hoped more young people would consider serving in the military.
“I think everyone coming up should go in the Army (or other branch of service) for at least four years,” said Sgt. 1st Class (ret.) Frank Scozzafava. “They should get a taste of what we got.”
Denise Simpson, the first female commander of American Legion Post 618 and a Desert Storm veteran, said more women should consider joining the military. Simpson, a retired U.S. Air Force staff sergeant, has a son in the Marines.
“I think women should serve,” Simpson said. “They should experience the military, at least do four years.”
She added the military can build a young woman’s self esteem and independence.
 

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