Local residents honored current and former members of the U.S. military during Veterans Day festivities in Meridian on Wednesday.
Standing near the Doughboy monument, veterans saluted and citizens put their hand on their hearts while a singer delivered the Pledge of Allegiance.
Some veterans wore hats for their branch of the military, and others wore uniforms for veterans’ organizations.
“I think it was wonderful that they honor all of the veterans,” Mouise T. Richards, an Army veteran, told The Meridian Star. “When I went to serve, I did what I thought I had to do. I was proud to serve.”
The event Wednesday morning included speeches by local leaders and a wreath laying by the monument. In the afternoon, a parade marched through downtown.
Eddie Kelly, the City of Meridian’s chief administrative officer, was the guest speaker for the morning event. Kelly, who served in the Marines, said that from a very young age, he knew he wanted to “be part of something bigger” than himself.
“I wanted to make a difference,” he said. “But the most important thing is, I wanted to make my mother proud.”
Kelly served in the Persian Gulf War.
“And I have to tell you, the worst part wasn’t actually serving in the war, but it was leaving my family,” he said. “Of all the sacrifices our men and women have to make, leaving our families behind is one of the hardest.”
Kelly also encouraged veterans to share their stories with others.
“Let people know what you’ve done so that they can seen the many faces of our military service,” he said, “and appreciate the personal service of their neighbors.”
U.S. Congressman Michael Guest also spoke to the crowd.
“On Veterans Day, I join Americans from across this great land,” Guest said, “as we pay tribute to the devotion, to the bravery, to the dedication of the men and women of our military, who have honorably served our nation since its founding.”
Eustace Ferguson attended the event, which he called “excellent.”
“It’s a great pride to know you did something worthwhile,” said Ferguson, who served in the Navy from 1976 to 1996.
Richards, the Army veteran, served in the military from 1968 to 1971. He served in Louisiana for one year, and then moved to Washington D.C., where he did clerical work for the military.
He grew up in Mississippi, and he said that moving away broadened his perspective.
“Meeting other people and getting different ideas,” he said, “and it made me become more open-minded. And being a social studies teacher, that helped me in the classroom.”
Ja’eda Sneed, a student in Northeast Lauderdale High School's NJROTC, marched in the parade.
“I think it’s a great day to celebrate all of our veterans,” she said of Veterans Day. "And they should be more appreciated.”
Sneed’s mother served in the Army. She wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps.
“I’m planning on going into it after high school,” she said.