Keynote speaker Lonnie Ellis spoke about a sensitive subject during the 2020 Dexter Allen Post 90 American Legion Veterans Day program: suicide among soldiers.
Like the Memorial Day program in the spring, the 2020 Veterans Day program had no audience due to COVID-19 precautions, but was instead recorded in the Emma Kelly Theater and is available to watch online at www.statesboroherald.com and on the Statesboro Herald Facebook page.
After a welcome by American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90 Commander Marvin Grimm and an invocation by Chaplain Barb Thames, Ellis, a previous Post 90 commander himself, addressed the “hardships and confusion” veterans of all wars experience that may lead to suicidal thoughts after returning home.
Ellis, who penned a compilation of poems inspired by his military experiences (“War and Peace and Poetry”), is a 26-year member of the American Legion, a Marine combat veteran of the Gulf War and Army veteran who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom. A Bulloch County native, he is currently employed with a company used by the U.S. government to shuttle people to recruitment and military events and training.
Referencing a line in a movie, Ellis noted that often sports stars receive more honor and recognition than war heroes who fight to protect America’s freedom. He spoke of the difficulties soldiers face, coming home and trying to live normal lives in a society that has not experienced the things they saw and endured.
Sometimes the “demons and the chaos” make soldiers feel as if they do not matter. “But, of course, they do,” he said. “They have value that needs to be understood and treasured.”
Ellis shared memories of his father walking him to the bus stop as he headed off to become a Marine. “He said to me, ‘You don’t have to be hero.’”
To Ellis, that meant “I was valuable. He was saying to me, ‘come home.’”
He urged veterans to reach out “for help and support and to realize they have had value since “the day the doctor said you were going to be born.”
The annual American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90 Veterans Day program was sponsored by Joiner Anderson Funeral Home, Bulloch Memorial Gardens and the Averitt Center for the Arts.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.