JASPER, Ga. – It’s not Veterans’ Day, but you might think it was if you were in Pickens County on August 9 as they finally dedicated their long-awaited Veterans Memorial next to Lee Newton Park.
Situated at the edge of the parking lot on Stegall Drive, the Memorial opened for the public with an official dedication at 11:00 a.m. The dedication saw the colors of each military branch set in honor at the site while veterans and members of the American Legion hung the American Flag over the memorial. While several people offered words to sanctify the grounds, they added an offering of the 21-Gun Salute and “Taps,” as well.
The ceremony’s impact was only dwarfed by the size of the crowd that attended the day to offer thanks and respect to those who served. Most of them are veterans or have veterans in their family, a fact noted when a speaker asked these people to raise their hands during his speech.
One of those veterans is Al Parson Larson. At 90-years-old, Larson says he served on the USS Astoria, a light cruiser, in World War II. The day’s events held a certain somberness throughout, but meeting Larson punctuated the event as he confessed it would be the last time he would ever wear his uniform. It has been 70 years since Larson last wore his uniform in the line of duty. He says he has reached the point where it is just too difficult to get it on. He chuckled a moment before saying, “At least it still fits.”
Attending the event with his son, Larson was one of the few attending the event in uniform, and hundreds more who bore caps, shirts, and more signifying their service. But this photo, according to him, will be one of the last photos ever taken of him dressed out.
Veterans Memorial Park holds 5 smaller monuments in individual bricked in areas becoming part of the larger memorial that hosts bricks of honor for those who wish to purchase them in order to help build, expand, and maintain the memorial. Hoping to extend these bricks across the hillside, they confirmed they are still selling the bricks and will continue selling them indefinitely.
One speaker noted that 1% of Americans have served in the military, but looking at Pickens County, 12% of those in the county are veterans. Looking at this statistic, it has long been a need to honor that large portion of the community. But the honor is for all those who serve. The memorial has been a long time needed and a long time coming, but today it is finished. It stands as this county’s tribute for those in service.
Summing up the day’s feelings, John Trammell, President and CEO of Community Bank of Pickens County, said, “Vets, thank you for bravely doing what you were called to do so we can safely do what we are free to do.”
Make sure to check out more photos of the day at FYN’s Facebook Page.
For nearly two decades, Veterans Day in Gilmer County, Ga., has been a big event, celebrated with a parade, music, marching veterans in uniform, flags, the Gilmer Co. High School Band and chorus, free breakfasts and after parade lunches for vets. The schools also participate with prize money offered in essay and poster contests. A few times we have even enjoyed the thrill of fly overs by reserve aviation unites or CAP planes. Even a out of county High School ROTC Unit has asked to participate in the parade for the past several years. It’s always a busy day and always includes, as the main speaker, some dignitary or other, often a military officer, returned from a war zone, a local business personality or some other recognizable name.
This year, 2017, the invited guest speaker was Georgia’s own Speaker of the Georgia Assembly, and our state representative, The Honorable, Mr. David Ralston and also, a friend of mine. The following essay is the excellent speech, (verbatim) of speaker Ralston this year and was, in my opinion, just too good not to share:
“Good morning. What a beautiful day to be in Gilmer County!
I stand before you today as one who is proud to be an American. I am proud to be in Gilmer County. I am proud and honored to be a part of this very special occasion to honor our veterans for their service and sacrifice. Nothing I can say will full express the enormous debt of gratitude we owe to those who have served our nation in our military.
I want to thank everyone who helped put this spectacular display of patriotism on this morning. I particularly want to thank all of the students who have participated in today’s festivities. You all have helped us show that the American spirit is alive and well in North Georgia! Serving as Speaker of your House of Representatives as well as your State Representative is an honor for which I am thankful each and every day.
I know our political dialogue isn’t as kind as it once was. We’ve got some divisions that need healing. But we are so much better off than many other nations in the world. Here we are free to discuss and debate our disagreements. We can come to a table with different views and reason together. We have open, free and fair elections that put each and every one of us on a level playing field. That’s not the case in North Korea. That’s not the case in Zimbabwe. That’s not the case in Cuba. That’s not the case in Venezuela.
But here in this great nation, you and I are free. I am free to take a knee when I pray and I am free to stand with pride when the National Anthem is played or the Pledge of Allegiance is recited. In so many other parts of the world, people don’t enjoy the freedoms we enjoy. Their decisions are made for them. Their leaders are selected by others. The information they get is filtered for them by others. In 2017 when so many nations around the world are free – it can be hard to remember the millions of our brothers and sister who aren’t. Why do they still suffer under tyrants and dictators and we don’t? — Our men and women in uniform.
Our service members and veterans who have stood up to serve this one nation – under God – indivisible – say it with me – “with liberty and justice for all.” Throughout our history, America has been attacked by those who don’t value freedom. Whether it was the Axis powers in World War II or today’s terrorists from ISIS or Al Qaeda, Americans have always had the protection of our armed forces.
In the noise of today’s 24-hour news cycle, service and sacrifice aren’t qualities that we hear much about. That’s a shame. Yet there are heroes who live in communities each and every day – our mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, neighbors and friends – the veterans of our armed forces.
If anything, I hope today reminds us that no matter what happens, there are good and decent patriots who have stood up to defend our freedoms. They have offered to make the ultimate sacrifice and lay down their lives, if necessary, to protect this nation and its citizens. In the Book of John, Jesus tells us that “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
By stepping forward and volunteering to serve, each member of our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and Reserves offers to do just that. So today is a day that we pause to honor and celebrate their collective service and sacrifice. Today we rededicate ourselves to supporting our veterans and showing them the gratitude they deserve.
So long as the sun rises and the stars come out at night, this nation will remain a beacon of hope and opportunity for every oppressed person around the globe. They dream of one day enjoying the freedoms we enjoy. They dream of the limitless possibilities that exist in America.
And so long as our armed forces keep watch, this nation will stand proudly as the land of the free and the home of the brave. May God bless our veterans and our United States of America. Thank you!”
Remember, Freedom is the goal, the Constitution is the way. Now, go get ‘em! (13Nov17)
Pickens County held its Veterans Day Program on November 11, 2015. The event began with a parade ending in Lee Newton Park. The program began with Patriotic music by Pickens High School Marching Band / Director Michael Oubre.
Master of Ceremony – Tom Lindsey Recognition of Colors Boy Scout Troops 288, 836, & 1883
Invocation Bud Champlin – Chaplain, American Legion Post 149 Introduction of Speaker – Ray Smith
Speaker Steven L. Arnold, Lieutenant General U.S. Army (Ret.)
Pickens County Veterans Day Program was held November 11th, 2015 at Lee Newton Park. The program began with a parade.