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Ceremonies salute veterans
Leaders encourage youth to support, thank military
Local veterans and ROTC cadets from Liberty County High School and Bradwell Institute lay the wreaths during a Veterans Day observance at the VFW post home in Hinesville. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge

Long County thanks troops

Walker Middle School and Long County High School students showed support for veterans on Thursday.
The middle school offered refreshments in the office for those who have served in the past and who are currently serving. The high school held its second annual Veterans Day observance ceremony. About 25 veterans who attended the ceremony were given certificates of appreciation, thank you cards and pins.

Fresh-faced ROTC cadets carefully escorted elderly veterans across a red carpet, carrying wreaths to place before the nation’s flag Thursday, in observance of Veterans Day at the local VFW post in Hinesville. Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6602 hosts the solemn ceremony each November on the 11 day at the 11th hour, the moment that marks armistice, the official end of World War I.
Veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam sat side-by-side with young soldiers who have deployed to today’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Area police officers and fire fighters attended the ceremony to recognize the sacrifice made by service members, and service members, in turn, thanked first responders for their service to community.
The Fort Stewart Color Guard posted the colors and the VFW Ladies Auxiliary made a silent tribute to those service members who never returned from America’s wars and conflicts. Wreaths were laid and speeches were made. But the moment of silence spoke loudest, giving people time to remember veterans’ sacrifices.
“Talk to a vet,” Roy Owens, VFW Post 6602 master of ceremonies, told those assembled. “Listen to some of their stories. They have some good ones.”
“We do not savor this day as a military triumph,” said keynote speaker Maj. Domenic Clementi of Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. Clementi urged ceremony attendees to remember service men and women “who believed in and fought for a set of ideals.” “Their efforts gave others an opportunity for a better life,” he said.
Owens said in today’s hectic world filled with cell phones, the internet and reality shows, people have lost sight of the “real stars” — those in uniform “saving our butts.”
“Tell a soldier ‘thank you,’” he said. “Simple words mean a lot to a veteran, to a soldier.”
Ethan Schmeltzer, 13, attended the VFW ceremony with his father, Walthourville firefighter Scott Jones, and his little brother, Connor Jones, 6.
“My grandfather is a Vietnam veteran,” said Schmeltzer, a student at Lewis Frazier Middle School. “Most [young] people don’t ‘get’ about [soldiers] going to war.” He said many of his peers spend Veterans Day in other pursuits, like playing video games.
Dennis Fitzgerald, commander of East Liberty County American Legion Post 321, said today’s youth need to be better educated about the meaning and importance of Veterans Day. They don’t seem to understand the gravity of war, he said. Fitzgerald organized Hinesville’s second annual Veterans Day parade held last Saturday. The legion commander said the parade will likely be scheduled later in the day next year, to avoid a repeat of this year’s disappointing parade attendance.
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