The Valdosta Daily Times
In the words of Gulf War veteran Fred Wetherington, “It’s a great day to be American.”
Wetherington, a member of American Legion Post 218 in Hahira, was one of several speakers to address the student body of Lowndes High School Monday morning for Veterans Day under blue skies and in warm weather. In the stands and on the field in Martin Stadium, veterans shared their pride and attempted to convey the value of service to the country.
The stands were completely filled on the home side of the stadium, with faces young and old, veterans and civilians alike. On the field, two groups of veterans, elected officials and other public servants sat on either side of the podium flanked by the American and State of Georgia flags.
Guest speakers included Valdosta Mayor John Gayle, Lowndes County Commissioner Crawford Powell, State Senator Tim Golden, Valdosta Police Chief Frank Simons, Department of Georgia American Legion Veterans Service Officer Ed Kent and Vietnam War helicopter pilot CW-2 Ron Borders, among others.
Phil Youngblood, retired U.S. Army CSM and past commander of the Department of Georgia American Legion, the highest position in the state, served as Master of Ceremonies.
Following the speeches, LHS students in junior ROTC and the marching band had their own opportunity to shine. The band performed the National Anthem and “God Bless America,” then dove into a musical suite of all five anthems of the U.S. Armed Forces. To the music, flag-bearers presented the colors for each branch.
Veterans in attendance were asked to stand and be recognized. While most veterans in the audience had served in the Air Force, members of the Army, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard were also in attendance.
“We’re not the best country because we have the best schools or the best businesses or the best technology,” Simons said in his speech. “We’re the best because we’ve got the best military in the world.”
Simons expressed that he most appreciates older veterans because when they tell their stories, their eyes light up, and “you can see these gentlemen stand a little taller.”
Wetherington announced that the Bridgemen Marching Band will play their half-time show for veterans at Friday’s LHS-Marietta game.
After the ceremony, Borders explained why he feels Veterans Day is such an important event for young people.
“General Washington said, ‘You can’t expect young people to volunteer unless they see how the previous generation is appreciated,’” Borders said.