County salutes its veterans

Published 9:42 pm Friday, November 11, 2011

BENNY HAYES, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4904, and Larry Carroll, commander of American Legion Post 62, solemnly walk a memorial wreath to the deceased veterans’ monument in Willis Park on Friday. Among those saluting in the background are Hill Yates, commander of American Legion Post 62, and Ron Kirkland, the guest speaker at the ceremony.|Justin Schuver

Decatur County veterans and citizens joined together in Bainbridge on Friday to respect and celebrate the lives of the men and women in uniform who have fought to keep the United States free.
Friday morning, at 9 a.m., the annual Veterans Day ceremony at Willis Park was held. The band from Bainbridge High School played the national anthem while members of the Air Force JROTC corps presented the colors.
Ron Kirkland, financial advisor and area manager for the Woodmen of the World Insurance office in southwest Georgia, was the featured speaker in the event.
“I appreciate the opportunity to share on what Veterans Day means to me,” Kirkland said. “You have done an outstanding job, because of your continued will of steel and your backbone like a railroad iron, we are able to gather in city squares across America today and every day.
“We are enjoying the greatest benefits in the world — our liberty and our freedom. And it’s all because of the fighting men and women of every generation, those who refuse to bend and bow and break in the most challenging, awful, nasty, filthy, unbearable circumstances — some of which are never known to the average American.”
Kirkland celebrated the veterans by playing recordings of two patriotic and uplifting songs — Merle Haggard’s “Fightin’ Side of Me” and Josh Groban’s version of “You Raise Me Up.”
“Words are not adequate today, men and women of uniform, to tell you how much we appreciate the sacrifices you’ve made,” Kirkland said. “We do not have enough monetary value to pay you what you are truly worth. The price tag of freedom is priceless.”
Following Kirkland’s speech, Benny Hays, the commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars post 4904, read the names of those Decatur County veterans who have passed away since November 2010. During the reading, members of the Bainbridge High School band played a drum riff and at the end of the reading, the song “Taps” was played.
To close out the ceremony, Hays and American Legion Post 502 Commander Larry Carroll laid a wreath on the park’s deceased veterans monument.
Later Friday, at the Kirbo Center on the campus of Bainbridge College, local veterans were treated to a luncheon and speech by Lt. Col. Dave Stewart. Stewart is an Air Force veteran and serves as the director of the Bainbridge High School Air Force JROTC program.
“I have been given the honor to teach JROTC here at Bainbridge High School,” he said. “To help mold the young people in our city and instill the values that were taught to me while serving in the U.S. Air Force. They are: integrity first, service before self, excellence in all we do. Let me assure you, the future is bright.”
Stewart explained some of the wonderful activities the JROTC members have been involved with, including cleaning up the BHS campus and U.S. Highway 84, and providing color guards for any organization that requests one. In addition, the JROTC members were also involved in a flag retirement ceremony in Colquitt, Ga., and “Young Eagles” flights as far away as Thomasville, Ga.
“These are the values we want in the youth who will be protecting our freedoms in the future,” Stewart said.

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