Local veterans proudly stood as their comrades held flags representing different branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Moments later, they gathered as one and faced the audience — a small number of the many Americans for whom they bravely fought.
“If you think about it, ever since the first shots fired at Lexington Concord when the Revolutionary War began, our men and women have been answering the call to serve this nation,” said guest speaker U.S. Rep. David Rouzer, who called the veterans the true heroes of the country.
Community members and dignitaries paid tribute Wednesday during the 17th Annual Veterans Day Celebration at the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center.
Rouzer shared stories about his family members who served and the stories of others. One story was about a soldier named Joe captured during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. Rouzer said the Germans had so many prisoners they didn’t know what to do with them. So they marched them around Europe during the war. He talked about Joe’s harsh living and surviving on scarce food such as worms on roots.
“How anyone can survive that is a miracle,” Rouzer said.
He mentioned how a lot of veterans, including his grandfather, don’t like to talk about what they;ve been through, because they saw the “worst of the worst.”
“I know when I talk to veterans all across the district, each of you have a story,” he said. “Most of you don’t like to talk about your story. But we’re here today to say thank you. Not only today, but every day throughout the year.”
Rouzer continued and said every veteran has a deep bond with America and how they were willing to go into combat to protect the principals of America. He said citizens play a critical part in the future of the United States.
Narrator Bill Scott presented the history of Veterans Day, a public holiday held on the anniversary of the end of World War I. It replaced Armistice Day in 1954.
“We thank the men and women of the Army who stand tall to defend tall to defend our freedom. We thank the men and women of the Navy that sailed the seas to protect us,” Scott said. “We thank the men and women of the Air Force that protect our skies from the enemies o freedom. We thank the men and women of the Marines who are the first on the beaches…”
He also thanked the U.S. Coast Guard, National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve.
“We thank every man and woman who has ever worn the uniform of the Armed Services of the United States of America,” Scott said.
Tex Howard, president of the Sampson County Veterans Council, said it was a special day for living veterans. Later, he honored prisonerd of war (POWs) and those missing in action (MIAs) by discussing The Missing Man Table, which was displayed on stage. Each item on stage symbolized the sacrifices, such as an empty chair for the missing and the fallen not present.
“Some of these veterans have been missing in action or prisoners of war, from wars that began when most of us were youngsters are not yet born,” Howard said. “However, all Americans, young and old, should never forget the brave men and women who are still unaccounted for and who are still missing.”
The ceremony was presented by the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce, Sampson County Office of Veterans Services, the Sampson County Agri-Exposition, Sampson County and the Sampson County Veterans Council. Along with remarks from veterans, the event also included musical performances by Danielle Johnson who sang “The National Anthem.” The Sampson County Celebration Choir, under the direction of Phyllis Stallings, performed “This Is My Country,” a collection of patriotic songs to honor those who served.
Alison Carr, president of the Chamber, said the purpose of the event was to honor the sacrifices made by veterans and those currently serving.
“We must remember that one day of recognition is simply inadequate to fully express our gratitude to our veterans and military personnel,” Carr said. “They deserve our thanks and respect 365 days a year.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.