The community paused to recognize veterans in a special Veteran's Day observance Monday at the county complex auditorium.
The program, sponsored by the VFW POST 7623 and the American Legion POST 122, featured performances by the DeKalb County Fighting Tiger Band under the direction of Jonathan Wright and the DCHS Chorus under the direction of Josh Gulley. Our National Anthem was sung by State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver.
Billy Hawkins, Retired Brigadiere General of the Tennessee State Guard, one of the featured speakers, paid tribute to our veterans and their volunteerism. "Tennessee is known as the volunteer state. Many veterans in our county volunteered their services when duty called. Veterans are a society of protectors of home, country and freedom," said Hawkins. It has been said if you can read, thank a teacher. If you have freedom, thank a veteran. We remain free today because of the sacrifice, loyalty, and courage of our veterans," he said.
"Today we have two and a half million troops that have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The V.A. says that twenty percent of these veterans come home with post traumatic stress disorder. That's about 500,000 veterans coming home with PTSD which is very alarming. Suicide rates are going up. Not all veterans casualties are on the battlefield. A lot of them are returning home to us to be cared for," said Hawkins.
Many honorably and homeless veterans are cared for through Operation Stand Down Nashville, Inc. Executive Director of Operation Stand Down Nashville, Retired Lieutenant Colonel William J. Bill Burleigh addressed some of the services provided.
Operation Stand Down Nashville, Inc operates programs that train and support honorably discharged and homeless veterans as they work themselves off the streets and back into the community as responsible and contributing citizens.
Since 1993, a coalition of over 50 Nashville organizations has used this concept to organize a three day event for veterans who are homeless. The event provides outreach, information, and a variety of social services for this area's homeless veterans. The event has been held annually each fall. Coalition members represent over 25 community services agencies, over 25 veteran service organizations, and many businesses.
Burleigh said Operation Stand Down Nashville became a full time service organization in 1999. "Since July 1999 we have been a full time organization serving veterans everyday and we have grown," said Burleigh. "Some of the services we provide are employment, food, clothes, housing, shelter, and veterans benefits. We are the only veterans service center in Tennessee approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs. We provide jobs, clothes, and money when its needed to complete the process of a veteran and their family receiving the help they need," said Burleigh.
Following the program, a wreath was placed at the site of the veterans memorial monument outside the courthouse downtown. The wreath was placed by Ronnie Redmon, Jr. Carlton Miller, Joe Goodwin, Edward Frazier, and Jimmy Sprague.
Emma Rigsby of the Fighting Tiger Band, blew Taps to bring the observance to a close.