Here’s a few of the community ceremonies honoring area veterans today:
Where: Lakewood Baptist Church, 2235 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville
When: 11 a.m.
Where: Veterans Park, Athens and Main streets
When: 10 a.m.
Rock Creek Veterans Park
Where: Northside Drive and Academy Street
When: 9 a.m.
Ron Kellner’s appreciation for Veterans Day began long before he served in the U.S. military or helped lead — as he is today — a Veterans Day program for the American Legion.
“I learned a lot from my grandfather about Armistice Day and what it really meant,” said Kellner, a Vietnam War veteran and vice commander of Gainesville’s Paul E. Bolding Post 7.
“And there was always a parade, and we went on a family picnic. And he would tell a story or something about his service (in World War I).”
Armistice Day sprung out of “The Great War,” when an agreement to end hostilities between Allied nations and Germany took effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, or Nov. 11.
It became Veterans Day through a congressional act in 1954, celebrating veterans of all wars.
Today, area organizations, groups and schools will hold patriotic ceremonies across Hall County and the nation honoring veterans.
Among the community events is the annual Veterans Day program sponsored by Gainesville’s American Legion Paul E. Bolding Post 7.
The event, set for 11 a.m. at Lakewood Baptist Church, will feature an honor guard, patriotic music by Chestatee High School in northwestern Hall and a ceremony involving the placement of wreaths.
Also planned are a 21-gun salute by the Hall County Sheriff’s Office and a keynote speech by Hall sheriff’s Capt. Stephen Wilbanks.
A local Vietnam War veterans group is planning ceremonies starting at 9 a.m. at Rock Creek Veterans Park in Gainesville. The group is honoring 19 soldiers from World War II to modern wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The group will unveil the names of Marine Lance Cpl. Fred Buffington and Army Pvt. 1st Class Kenneth Gibbs on the Vietnam War monument. Through various circumstances, their names — and stories — were recently discovered.
The memorial now will bear the names of 28 Hall County residents killed in action during the war.
For the other 17, the group has laid a brick for them in the park, which is off Northside Drive and Academy Street, off the downtown square.
Vietnam veterans Harold Goss and Larry Martin plan to address the crowd, said Johnny Hulsey, a veteran who has helped organize the event.
“We hope the public and a lot of the family members will be present,” he said.
He said he expects the ceremony will be emotional.
“It always is,” Hulsey said, referring to past Veterans Day ceremonies at the park.
Elsewhere, a ceremony at 10 a.m. at Lula’s Veterans Park, which is off Main and Athens streets downtown, is set.
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, is the guest speaker.
City Manager Dennis Bergin said he is expecting another large crowd.
“Last year, we had about 200-plus, which isn’t too shabby,” he said.
A private ceremony honoring 175 veterans is planned at Lanier Village Estates, a retirement community off Ga. 60/Thompson Bridge Road in North Hall.
The program will be led by Ken Tuttle, who served 23 years in the Navy Medical Corps, including stints in Vietnam, the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Middle East.
For his part, Kellner reflected on how the day’s significance has grown over the years. Appreciation by others “is nice,” especially as that wasn’t always the case.
“When I got out of the service (during Vietnam), we were scorned ... to the point that I didn’t even say for many years that I had served,” he said.
“And now, people support the veterans and appreciate them. That means a lot to me. It is our veterans who have kept our freedoms.”