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Communities come together to honor veterans
Command Sgt. Major Joseph Natividad, a 30-year Army veteran, salutes during the Veterans Day Memorial Service in Lula on Friday. More than 100 guests attended the event.

By Kayla Elder

The community has stopped to remember and commend those who fought for the nation’s freedom by honoring the men and women of the United States Armed Forces this weekend.

On Friday, residents of Lula gathered early in the morning for its annual Veterans Day Memorial Service held in Lula Veterans Park off Main and Athens streets. More than 100 guests were welcomed by Mayor Milton Turner, followed by Rev. Tilly Welborn giving an opening prayer.

“It is my pleasure to introduce a gentleman who has remarkable attributes in regards to his service to his country,” City Manager Dennis Bergin said. “This person at the age of 17 years old joined the military and has a remarkable background, which we should all honor and recognize. He lives here in the great city of Lula.”

Guest speaker Joseph Natividad, a 30-year Army veteran and retired command sergeant major, spoke of his time in service and future veterans.

“We are here to honor the veterans,” Natividad said. “At 9 years old, I knew I would wear the uniform. My dad came from the Philippines, he joined the Navy and retired, and four of my brothers joined the military. I remember when my older brother came home, he would always bring me something such as a steel pot, old pair of boots or a candy bar.”

Natividad said years from now some of the children in the crowd “will be wearing a uniform, protecting our country.”

“As soon as I turned 17, on my birthday, I went straight to the recruiter’s office,” Natividad said. “These children sitting here are going to be our future veterans, respect them and if they choose to go into the military, support them.”

In attendance were the Hall County Sheriff’s Department Color Guard and Lula Elementary School’s fourth- and fifth-grade chorus students conducted by Erin Lonberger, as well as singers Sarah Justice and Jerry Willis.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, the University of North Georgia held its annual Memorial Roll Call at the Gainesville campus student center.

Volunteers read aloud the names of U.S. soldiers who died between 2001 and this year.

Among those names were UNG alumni Weston C. Lee, Thomas E. Vitagliano and Charles H. Warren, all in Iraq; and Jeremy A. Chandler, Andrew H. McConnell, Kevin M. Jenrette, Paul Saylor and Mitch Young, all in Afghanistan.

“This is patriotism,” UNG freshman Erick Huicochea said as he placed a flag in the ground next to hundreds of others. “I try to be as supportive as I can be. I have family that served in the military so I definitely feel a need to show support.”

Veterans and Adult Learners Program students sold flags for guests to place in front of the student center to show their support for veterans.

A military history van was also on campus, displaying military weapons and memorabilia from different eras.

Veterans Day 2017 program

When: 11 a.m. Nov. 11

Where: Lakewood Baptist Church, 2235 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville

How much: Free

More info: 770-967-8733,

Veterans Day ceremony 

When: 9-10 a.m. Nov. 11

Where: Rock Creek Park, 223 Northside Drive, Gainesville

How much: Free

More info: 770-967-8733,

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