By Michael Stewart / Executive Editor
The Meridian Star
Downtown Meridian was ground zero Sunday for recognition of America's defenders.
Veterans Day services kicked off at 10:30 a.m. at the foot of the "The Spirit of the American Doughboy" statue that faces City Hall and is flanked by the Threefoot Building.
Attendees came to honor America's veterans like Sgt. Maj. Jack Oliver, 87, who served in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Makassar Strait during WW II; saw combat with the Army's 2nd Infantry Division, 9th Regiment in the Korean War; and pulled duty in a medical combat unit for the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam.
"If it wasn't for my generation there would be a lot of us speaking German and Japanese," Oliver said. "We were the greatest generation but they have forgotten about us."
On Sunday they were remembered when veterans stood at attention as each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces was recognized.
"Days like today makes all of us veterans stand a little taller, stand a little prouder and get ready for another year as a band of brothers," guest speaker Van "Mac" McCarty, U.S. Marine Corp retired, told the crowd.
Attendees stood for the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem. There was a laying of the wreath by the Ladies Auxiliary at the foot of the statue known locally as "The Doughboy Monument," which is one of 140 estimated replicas nationwide of the original original E.M. Viquesney statue. The statues are believed, collectively, to be the most viewed statues in the U.S., with the exception of the Statue of Liberty.
The Honor Guard at NAS Meridian fired off a 21-gun salute, which was followed by Taps and a benediction by the Rev. Wayne Long.
The event was hosted by the Memorial Day - Veterans Day Committee, along with help from the city of Meridian, Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors and local chapters of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and Fleet Reserve Association.
VFW Post 79 Commander Chuck McElroy said the nation's veterans and their families need their country's support now more than ever.
"Some of these families are hurting in this economy," McElroy said.
The Veterans Day activities were capped off at 3 p.m. with a parade downtown.