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Veterans Day events: Several chances to say thanks
Numerous events planned all week in Gainesville leading up to Thursday holiday
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Bill Dean sets up one of the Veterans Day displays Thursday at the Northeast Georgia History Center. - photo by Tom Reed

Veterans Day activities

Northeast Georgia History Center Veterans Week
What
: History Center displays military items, offers school tour groups and has veterans speak to students
Where: 322 Academy St., Gainesville

American Legion Post 7 Veterans Day program
What
: Patriotic ceremony; the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 7 also will distribute "in memoriam" poppies
When: 11 a.m. Thursday
Where: Georgia Mountains Center, 301 Main St. SW, Gainesville

Letters from Home's Military Holiday Mission
What
: Children's activities, tethered balloon rides, live music and evening dance
When: 1-5 p.m. and 7-11 p.m. Saturday
Where: American Legion Paul E. Bolding Post 7, 2343 Riverside Drive, Gainesville

Veterans Day is Thursday, but area residents will have several opportunities through the week to thank military men and women for their service.

The Northeast Georgia History Center at Brenau University plans to dedicate the week, starting Monday, to veterans, featuring displays of military artifacts and memorabilia and appearances by the veterans themselves — from World War II to Iraq/Afghanistan.

"We're going to have between 500 and 600 (students) in school groups doing tours at the center," said Scott Ballard, a Gainesville businessman and history center volunteer helping to lead the effort.

Displays include framed prints of World War II aircraft signed by famed heroes of the time, including one of the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that was the first plane to drop an atomic bomb as a weapon of war.

The print will feature the signature of pilot Paul Tibbets and a piece of the plane.

"We are kind of shooting for the ‘wow' effect," Ballard said of the event.

Many students won't have to leave their classroom for the experience.

The History Center has arranged for veterans to visit schools, meeting with and speaking to up to 2,500 students, Ballard said.

"What a wonderful opportunity it is to actually talk to someone who was there while they were making history," he said. "... We have so many interesting stories out there."

Bill Dean, a History Center board of directors member, said the hands-on activities are key. He plans to let students pick up an M-1 Garand rifle, which weighs about 9.5 pounds, and ask them, "How would you like to carry this on your shoulder every day and march for about 15 miles?"

"My primary (emphasis) to the students is this, is what (veterans) went through to keep your freedom alive," he said. "If they can grasp that ... then we will have done the right thing.

"Hopefully, this will be just the start. This (weeklong event) will grow, and I think it will, based on the enthusiasm we've seen so far."

Ballard said he hopes the event also will help "engender a sense of service, in some form or fashion," among students.

"We're going to try to mix it up and keep it lively so the kids just won't be able to get enough of it," Dean said.

On Veterans Day, the American Legion Paul E. Bolding Post 7 is sponsoring its annual Veterans Day program at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Georgia Mountains Center in Gainesville.

The event will feature the Hall County Sheriff's Office Honor Guard, patriotic music by the Chestatee High School band, a prisoners of war and missing in action remembrance ceremony, songs by Maranatha Christian Academy students and a gun salute. Riverside Military Academy will retire the colors.

Mack Abbott, a Gainesville resident and Pearl Harbor survivor, will be the guest speaker, said Larry Emmett, post commander.

After the program, a free spaghetti dinner will be offered to veterans at the Gainesville Elks Lodge, 1547 Riverside Drive. The public is invited, but all others will be charged $5 per plate.

The American Legion Auxiliary Unit 7 will distribute "in memoriam" poppies at the Veterans Day program.

"We want people to wear them to call attention to our veterans and armed forces that give us our freedoms," said Rita Clifton, who heads up the poppy effort.

"If anyone wants to make a donation, they can," she said. "Normally, we don't focus on that, but all donations ... will go to disabled and hospitalized veterans and their families."

Also, an organization known as Letters from Home is sponsoring its second annual Military Holiday Mission 1-5 p.m. and 7-11 p.m. Saturday at the American Legion Post 7's home at 2343 Riverside Drive.

Events will feature children's activities, tethered balloon rides, live music and an evening dance. The group is accepting donations of holiday items to be sent to armed forces overseas.

"We have military counting on us, a community more than willing to help and the best veterans in the world," said Becky M. Pratt, the group's founding executive.

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