A large crowd took time Saturday to join members of the American Legion Post #122 in remembering the service and sacrifices of soldiers during the annual Veterans Day program held at the county complex.
The program began with piano music by Mary Lynn Page followed by a performance of patriotic songs by members of the DCHS Band and Chorus.
Boy Scout Troop #347 presented the colors and led the audience in the pledge to the flag. Victoria Vincent performed the national anthem accompanied by the DCHS Chorus.
Local minister Larry Green offered an opening prayer and Judy Redmon, President of the American Legion Post #122 Ladies Auxiliary introduced the guest speaker Billy Hawkins who opened his remarks by saying how much his fellow veterans mean to him.
“I want to say to these veterans who are here today that we are not necessarily heroes but we were doing our jobs when we were in the military. That is the important thing. We were doing what we signed up to do. I don’t feel like a hero but these other veterans here today are my heroes. DeKalb County has sent many people into the service. We’ve had many that did not come back but we owe you all a deep debt of gratitude,” he said.
Hawkins gave a history of how Veterans Day came about and then spoke of what veterans have done for our country.
“A veteran is the cop on the beat who spent twelve months in a desert sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.
A veteran is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in a makeshift military hospital.
A veteran is the POW who went away one person and came back another, or didn't come back at all.
A veteran is a parade-riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.
A veteran is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket who killed the Vietcong in the name of liberty and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.
A veteran is an ordinary human being and he may be your next door neighbor.
It is the veteran who has given us freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and the right to assemble. It is the veteran who has given us the right to a fair trial and the right to vote. It is the veteran, who salutes the flag, who serves under the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag.
There is no greater way that a person can serve their loved ones or their fellow man than providing freedom, safety and security,”
Hawkins then paid tribute to law enforcement officers and firefighters as well as the families of veterans. “ I want to recognize law enforcement officers and firefighters because they serve just as well. They put their lives on the line for every one of us every day when they are needed,” he said.
“I also want to recognize the unrecognized heroes. The people left at home. I salute the families of veterans. They sacrificed every day of their family’s military service. They are the heroes who stayed behind and took care of the children and everything else while worrying about you as a veteran. They were the ones who packed up the household goods, sometimes with very little notice and moved to foreign places. If you are a family member, a wife, husband, child, sister, brother, or grandparent of a veteran I salute you because you also paid a price,” Hawkins said.
Born in Watertown, Hawkins grew up in Tennessee and Michigan, and graduated from Smithville High School in 1953. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1954 to 1974 retiring as a Tech Sergeant.
Hawkins earned a B.S., M.S., and Ed.S degrees from MTSU and began teaching at DCHS in 1977. He retired from teaching in 1997.
After serving in the Tennessee State Guard for 20 years, Hawkins retired in 2003 as a Brigadier General Commanding the 2nd Brigade known as “the Old Hickory Brigade of Middle Tennessee”. He has served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President of the Upper Cumberland Military Officers’ Association. Hawkins is a member of the VFW and the American Legion and has been a supporter and consultant to the Nashville “Operation Standdown” serving homeless veterans.
Following Hawkins’ remarks, American Legion Post #122 Adjutant Ronnie Redmon, Sr. recognized fellow members for their years of service including:
W.D. (Doyle) Smith- 63 years; Thermon N. Harrison-44 years; Lee A. Plummer-43 years; Willie T. Robinson-41 years; Earl Hensley-40 years; George Corley, Jr.-38 years; David R. Laird-35 years; Jerry N. Brown and Calvin L. Hullett-32 years; Ronnie Redmon, Sr., Edsel B. Frazier, and Jimmy L. Driver-30 years; Gary L. Fuson-28 years; Eugene J. O’Neil and Walter N. Johnson-25 years; and James E. Cantrell, Waniford Cantrell, Edward Frazier, and Eddie M. Young-20 years.
American Legion Commander William Edmonds also made welcoming remarks.
Following the program, local veterans boarded a school bus made available courtesy of the School System Transportation Department for a parade escort from the county complex to downtown Smithville for the laying of a wreath at the courthouse veterans memorial monument. Sheriff Patrick Ray along with members of the Smithville Police and Fire Departments, and DeKalb EMS made up the parade.
A high school band member then blew taps to end the program.
At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, World War I came to an end when Germany signed an armistice agreement with the Allies.
"Armistice Day" was celebrated in the U.S. on Nov. 11, 1919, to commemorate the first anniversary of the end of WWI. Seven years later, Congress passed a resolution for an annual observance. In 1938, Nov. 11 became a national holiday but it wasn't until 1954 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
Veterans Day pays tribute to all U.S. military veterans, living or dead, for serving the U.S. during war or peacetime.