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Local ceremonies honor veterans sacrifices
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Collis Wheeler, Cecil Boswell and Joe T. Wood Sr., all World War II veterans, are honored Tuesday morning during a Veterans Day ceremony at Rock Creek Veterans Park.

Tuesday was a day for tributes, tears and — in the case of one Veterans Day ceremony — some serious toe-tapping.

Terrance Holeman belted out the up-tempo, but heavily patriotic “Born in the USA” (his composition, not the Bruce Springsteen tune) with his audience waving American flags and smiling during an event at Rock Creek Veterans Park in downtown Gainesville.

Otherwise, community ceremonies paying homage to men and women in uniform through patriotic celebrations and ceremonies were often somber

and tearful.

A key moment at the Rock Creek ceremony, sponsored by a group of Vietnam veterans who meet weekly for breakfast at Dairy Queen, was the recognition of two veterans whose names had been added to the park’s Vietnam War monument.

Marine Lance Cpl. Fred Buffington and Army Pfc. Kenneth Gibbs were represented by family members and loved ones as their names were unveiled, joining 26 other Hall County residents who died in the war.

“I know that your families sacrificed right along with you,” one of Gibbs’ sisters, White County resident Terri Crumley told the crowd. “I know that my family sacrificed. Our mother cried from the time (Kenneth) was drafted to the time his body got back.”

Veterans Day, which sprung out of Armistice Day from World War I, is meant to honor American veterans of all wars, something Ron Kellner spoke about during the American Legion Paul E. Bolding Post 7’s ceremony later at Lakewood Baptist Church off Thompson Bridge Road in Gainesville.

Kellner, post vice commander, said his appreciation for military veterans and their service began when he was a youngster visiting his grandfather, who served in World War I.

Hall County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Stephen Wilbanks was the main speaker at the American Legion program.

Wilbanks talked about serving as a Marine Corps Reserve in “personnel retrieval and processing” in Iraq. His job was to help evacuate fallen troops from the battlefield and back to the U.S.

“There are a lot of stories I can relate, some more difficult than others,” Wilbanks said.

“The men and women who (take on) some of our nation’s most daunting tasks, the most dangerous missions in the most hostile lands, to go abroad and do our country’s bidding despite all the sacrifices and personal loss — those are your veterans.

“I’d simply like to say thank you to all of those who have served for your service. Thank you to those of you who have loved and supported those who have served.”

The Dairy Queen veterans group also praised veterans of past wars.

In one poignant moment, Harold Goss, Air Force veteran of Vietnam, called the names of three men who served in World War II — Cecil Boswell, Collis Wheeler and Joe T. Wood Sr.

“God gave you your soul,” Goss said, choking up. “These three men gave you your freedom.”

Other ceremonies taking place in Hall included one at Lula’s Veterans Park, where U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, was the guest speaker.

Collins, a veteran himself, serving as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, issued a statement later saying he hoped constituents were taking time to honor veterans.

“These men and women have fought or are still fighting for our national freedoms,” he said. “Without them, the lives we often take for granted would not be possible. Veterans have encountered insurmountable odds to protect us.”

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