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Veterans Day 2009
Bulloch honors men and women in the military
111109 VETERANS DAY 06 web
World War and Korean War veteran David Knight chuckles knowingly as other veterans recount their stories during Wednesday's 2009 Veterans Day community observance at the Emma Kelly Theater. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    During Wednesday's Veterans Day program at  Emma Kelly Theater, Naval Commander Clifford L. Holt urged citizens to encourage young people to join the military, and to ask legislators to beef up the military and improve services to veterans.
    "These young people need to know what a magnificent thing it is to serve the country," he told the crowd who attended the program. "We need to press upon the young the importance of military service."
    Holt also spoke of his experiences as a Navy commander during the Cold War, where he never had to engage in combat but was shot at twice, he said. Holt taught pilots to fly.
    He spoke about what it means to be a veteran. "You were asked by your country, and did it," he said. "You did it well." He gave a brief bit of history for each war the country endured, and noted that several in the audience served in World War II and other wars afterward.
    "Throughout history we've taken for granted the men and women who do this," he said. "Why do they do this? In general ... a deep embedded sense of duty, honor and courage."
    Holt noted the sacrifices veterans have consistently given over the years — missed holidays, time taken away from family, the loss of loved ones while away on duty. "You served valiantly — and for long periods of time," he told veterans in the audience.
    He spoke about how "during the (president Ronald) Reagan era we had a magnificent military" but then government slashed the military numbers. He referred to following requests then for more money to create new jobs. "Heck, they had jobs," he said.
    Holt's speech was preceded by brief recollections by various local veterans of their wartime experiences. Janie Staggs, whose husband Bobby Staggs, as well as her father, son and grandson are veterans, spoke of the importance of military service.
    "Each veteran's experience is unique, yet important to our nation as a whole," she said.
    U. S. Army Veteran Burton Higgins talked about experiences in the Army's medical field, including setting up a 250-bed hospital tent in A. P. Hill, Va.
    Lt. Col. William J. Neville, U.S. Army, ret., spoke about his experiences in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater/ Neville said he lied about his age to get into the National Guard, and that began his military career. He described the brutality of the Japanese when they invaded Manchuria and talked about the horrors of "the rape of Nanking."
    Lt. Col. Walter Woodrum, retired Air Force, talked about the Korean conflict, although he said he did not serve there. His class in military tech school was sent to Europe instead of Korea, where the previous 33 classes had been sent. Woodrum gave a brief history of the Korean War.
    Master Sgt. Joe Bill Brannon, retired from the U.S. Air Force, spoke passionately about experiences during the Viet Nam war. "It was 16 long, brutal years" that the United States dealt with the horrors of that war. Over eight million served, and over 58,000 died, he said. Over 300,000 soldiers were wounded and 2,000 went missing.
    "It was a very trying time in this country," he said. "This war divided the country more than any conflict in the history of the United States — more so than the Civil War."
    Brannon also spoke of Statesboro's role in the Vietnam War by hosting a radar unit at the airport, where bombers were trained.
    National Guard Master Sgt. Bobby Babot spoke next, recalling experiences serving in the war in Iraq, along with his son, who served at the same time.
    Babot trained Iraqi soldiers, and talked about the warm welcome Iraqi families gave the U.S. soldiers. He talked about how children brought them platters of dates and bread for breakfast, and they ate together on  the hood of a Humvee.
    He also spoke of the joy Iraqi adults showed as they waved ink-stained thumbs proving they had just voted for their constitution.
    Staff Sgt. Donald Logan, USAF-ret., spoke about the role of the Tuskegee Airmen in United States history/ "The Tuskegee Airmen were real," he said, speaking about the " accolades of young men who wanted to do more than just support the military).  They wanted to fly." Logan briefly mentioned the fact that a new Tuskegee Airmen unit is currently serving in Iraq.
    Others spoke briefly in honor of the country's veterans as well. Carol Thompson, president of the Statesboro Arts Council, and Sue Meikle, regent of the Archibald Bulloch Daughters of the American Revolution, each welcomed visitors, and Brent Tharpe, representing the Bulloch County Historical Society, introduced Holt as the keynote speaker. The groups, in partnership with the Dexter Allen Post 90 American Legion, hosted the event.'
    Post 90 Commander Dan Foglio organizes and directed the program. After Holt's speech, Foglio presented his with a plaque of appreciation. He honored Post 90 Chaplain Skip Campbell with a plaque as well, thanking him for 64 years serving the post.
    Campbell offered both the opening and closing prayers for the event. Ellen Murkison performed the National Anthem, and the Outrageous Joy trio provided entertainment prior to the program.
     Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at 489-9414.

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