The Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 6602 held a Veterans Day ceremony Monday morning outside its post headquarters on E.G. Miles Parkway.
Several veterans groups participated in the wreath-laying part of the ceremony, including the VFW, VFW Ladies Auxiliary and VFW’s Military Order of the Cootie; Vietnam Veterans of America, Liberty Chapter 789; American Legion, Post 168 with Ladies Auxiliary and Post 321; Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 46; the Association of the U.S. Army; and the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps for Bradwell Institute and Liberty County High School.
JROTC cadets from Liberty County High School assisted the veterans group representatives in placing their wreaths.
The 3rd Infantry Division provided the color guard and the 3rd ID band. Col. John Hort, 3rd ID deputy commanding general-rear; Col. Kevin Gregory, U.S. Army garrison commander for Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield; and Stewart-Hunter Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Louis Felicioni attended as special guests.
Local leaders included Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier and City Councilman David Anderson, as well as Midway Mayor Clemontine Washington. Georgia’s Army Reserve Ambassador Luis Carreras and scores of active-duty and retired veterans also attended, including Guido Knapp.
“I grew up in Europe during World War II,” said Knapp, who originally is from France and retired from the U.S. Army 30 years ago after 30 years service. “I was 8 years old when that war ended. I served in the Korean War just before it ended (in 1953), and I served in Vietnam.”
Knapp retired at Fort Stewart and still lives in Hinesville.
Following the posting of the colors near the VFW’s giant American flag and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, Camden County High School student Edgar Freund Jr. sang the national anthem.
Master of ceremonies Joe Besanceney introduced Ladies Auxiliary members Grace Godfrey and Dora Morris, who laid a silent tribute. Besanceney then named each of a dozen or more wreaths, starting with a wreath for prisoners of war and those missing in action.
Guest speaker Lt. Col. Jeffrey C. Denius, deputy commander of 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, thanked the VFW for inviting him.
“I can’t think of a better place to celebrate Veterans Day than at the post of a VFW,” said Denius, who summarized the history of the organization, including its role in getting Congress to pass the Servicemen’s Readjustment Acts (also known as the G.I. Bill) of 1944 and 1994.
He said that after World War II, 15.2 million veterans came home. The public rallied around them, and employers were eager to hire them. He said public sentiment changed for Vietnam veterans coming home in the 1960s and early 1970s. They were not welcomed home nor treated respectfully, he said.
“Every one of our veterans and their families deserve our appreciation,” Denius said, noting public sentiment has been much more supportive for service members returning from recent wars. “We owe our veterans more than a moment of silence.”
The ceremony continued with the ceremonial ringing of the bell, which was followed by “Taps,” performed by the 3rd ID band buglers.
VFW Post 6602 Commander Stephen Wheeler thanked Denius and presented him with a plaque. He also recognized Post 6602’s manager, Tammy Stacey, with a bouquet of flowers, calling her his “right- and left-hand man.”
The ceremony officially began and ended with a prayer by post chaplain Gary Justice.