With American flags held high, members of the Macon County community filled Main Street to show their appreciation to the men and women who have served in the United States military. As the annual Veteran's Day parade headed up Town Hill, an unanimous applaud rung in the air as friends, family and neighbors braved the rain and chilly weather all for a chance to say thank you.
Led by local girl and boy scout troops, representatives from each war from Pearl Harbor to World War II to those still fighting for the country today marched down Main Street and were greeted with smiles. After the annual parade, the crowd moved to the gazebo on the square for a Veteran's Day Ceremony.
Macon County veteran Bob Litten gave the welcome and recognized the one surviving Pearl Harbor veteran, Al Christian. “I am so thankful to be able to stand up here and welcome you all to this ceremony,” said Litten. “And thank you to all the men and women who have dedicated their lives to the service.”
Mayor Joe Collins once again thanked the large crowd for braving the damp weather to show their appreciation before turning his attention to the Macon County veterans.
“On behalf of Franklin and the Town Board I want to thank each and every person standing before me today who made the ultimate sacrifice and stood up for our country,” said Collins. “Today is about you. Thank you.”
For the fifth year in a row, under the direction of Deb Brown, students from Mountain View Intermediate performed for the audience. The group started with a song titled “Grateful Nation” that expressed the best possible show of appreciation and gratitude possible for the men and women in uniform.
The event's keynote speaker, President of the Vietnam Veterans of America #994 Rick Norton expressed how he had trouble thinking of remarks to address his fellow servicemen and women. “I was troubled with what to say to you all today, but then a lightbulb went off and I just knew,” said Norton. “It didn't take long to figure it out, all I had to say was thank you. No matter your military specialty, from private to general, from enlisted to career or draftee, you served your country as she asked of you. No matter the conflict, from WWII to Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Persian Gulf, Iraq or Afghanistan, you have done your duty as members of the U.S. military services, and for that, I thank you.”
Norton praised the veterans in the audience for taking an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and any other lawful order given by those appointed in higher positions. "You have upheld that oath, no matter the president or the conflict," said Norton. "That is called duty ... do any of you remember when you were released from service being released from that oath? Me neither. I believe that as veterans we are expected to uphold that oath until we draw our last breath. That we should keep serving our community and our nation — bound by that oath."
Macon County veteran Gary Shields concluded the ceremony with a poem titled, "What is a Veteran," which he read before the laying of the wreaths in remembrance of all those who have given their lives to the service of the United States of America.
Photos by Betsey Gooder & Ellen Bishop
What is a Veteran?
Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye.
Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg - or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul's ally forged in the refinery of adversity.
Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem.
You can't tell a vet just by looking.
He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.
He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.
She - or he - is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.
He is the POW who went away one person and came back another - or didn't come back AT ALL.
He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat - but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other's backs.
He is the parade - riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.
He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.
He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.
He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket - palsied now and aggravatingly slow - who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.
He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being - a person who offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.
He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.
So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say Thank You. That's all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.
Two little words that mean a lot, "THANK YOU".
"It is the soldier, not the reporter, Who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, Who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, Who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protestor to burn the flag."
Father Denis Edward O'Brien/USMC