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Veterans Day speakers talk about sacrifices

Thirty-year U.S. Army veteran Gean Hendrix and National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. Chuck Crews talked during separate Wednesday Veterans Day ceremonies about the many self sacrifices brave men and women in the U.S. armed forces give every day to keep America free.

Wednesday morning’s Willis Park ceremonies, which took place under a slight rain, were sponsored by American Legion Posts 62 and 502.

Due to the rain, the award-winning Bainbridge High School Marching Bearcat Band played the National Anthem and other patriotic songs under the Bon Air Hotel balcony across the street from the park.

Hendrix opened his park ceremony remarks by thanking all veterans, past and present, for preserving the freedom we continue to enjoy to this day.

Crews, speaking at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 4904-sponsored luncheon at Bainbridge College’s Charles H. Kirbo Regional Center, said the American veteran is the one who makes America great.

“Whether you served in World War II, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan or some other war or conflict, you have a story to tell,” Crews said. “Those stories helped shape you into the person you are today.”

The park ceremony began with the presentation of the colors by Bainbridge High School Air Force Junior ROTC cadets and the playing of the National Anthem by the Bearcat Band,

It continued with Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 4904 Commander Hill Yates leading everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, and the welcome and introduction of guests by American Legion Post 62 Commander Bob Strickland.

The Rev. Stephen Webb, pastor of the Bainbridge First United Methodist Church, delivered the invocation and benediction. Hendrix continued his remarks by talking about a misconception about Veterans Day.

“Many Americans mistakenly believe that Veterans Day is the day America sets aside to honor American military personnel who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained from combat,” Hendrix said. “That’s not quite true. Memorial Day is the day set aside to honor America’s war dead.

“Veterans Day, on the other hand, honors all American veterans, both living and dead. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for dedicated and loyal service to their country.”

Yates and American Legion Post 502 Adjutant Herbert Smiley placed a wreath in front of the park monument honoring deceased Decatur County veterans of all wars.

Special presentations were made at both ceremonies.

During the park ceremony, Bainbridge Mayor Mark Harrell presented a box of letters written by Decatur County school children to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to Staff Sgt. Edward Stone of the 1230th Transportation Company in Bainbridge.

Stone expressed his deep appreciation to Harrell, the children who wrote the letters, and their parents for what he termed the great inspiration such letters give the troops.

“Letters, like the ones written by these Decatur County children, are put on the walls of our living quarters in foreign lands,” he said. “As we come in and read them, they really inspire us.”

Also during the park ceremonies, Nancy Kennedy, who teaches kindergarten at Potter Street Elementary School, presented an American flag, made by the school’s kindergarten students, to Bainbridge High School Air Force Junior ROTC director Col. Gary Breedlove.

The flag, which included little paper hearts cut out by the children, was first presented to Mrs. Kennedy’s son, U.S. Marine Robin Kennedy, one of Col. Breedlove’s former cadets, in California and he took it with him to Iraq. The flag will now be displayed in the ROTC classroom at Bainbridge High School.

Three special awards were given during the noon VFW sponsored ceremonies. Bennie Brookins was honored as the longest serving member of Post 4904, Marion Wise was honored as the longest serving member of the Post 4904 auxiliary and Jim Stone was honored as Post 4904’s longest serving prisoner of war.