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Veterans get a big thank you from area residents
Wreath laying and American Legion ceremony honor local veterans
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Wearing the white Gold Star Wives hat signifying she is a military widow, Kathryn Goudelock of Gainesville took her place at two Veterans Day events Friday.

In the chilly morning air, she watched as a wreath was placed at the Vietnam monument at Rock Creek Park off the downtown Gainesville square.

Later, on behalf of Gold Star Wives, she placed a wreath at the annual ceremony sponsored by the American Legion, Paul E. Bolding Post 7, at Lakewood Baptist Church off Thompson Bridge Road.

Veterans Day "brings back a lot of sad memories," said Goudelock, whose husband, Forrest, was killed in Vietnam in 1968, five years after the couple married. But otherwise, "it's a good day."

Veterans Day is about "freedom and the opportunity to go and do as you can," she said.

The community, including area schools and veterans groups, rallied around Hall County's military personnel on Friday, showering them with thanks and appreciation.

"It's trite to say that America isn't free, but it really isn't," said retired Army Lt. Col. J.D. Kirby at the American Legion event. "It comes at a precious cost. Keeping it free requires effort and resolution on the part of every citizen."

The program also featured patriotic music by Chestatee High School in northwest Hall and a musical performance by young students of Maranatha Christian Academy in Oakwood.

Tom Oliver, chairman of the Hall County Board of Commissioners, and Gainesville Mayor Ruth Bruner also presented proclamations.

The Georgia Mountains YMCA on Howard Road in Gainesville also held its first Veterans Day celebration.

Some 50 people attended the ceremony, featuring remarks by state Rep. Doug Collins, who served as a chaplain with a U.S. Air Force Reserves unit in Balad, Iraq, and Jerry Bowers, a U.S. Air Force veteran.

Also, a veterans celebration event was held in downtown Lula. Cookie Salinas of the Marine Corps League, Upper Chattahoochee Detachment, was the featured speaker.

At the morning event at Rock Creek in Gainesville, Vietnam War veterans laid a wreath in a tearful ceremony at a monument bearing the names of 26 Hall County residents who died in the war.

"This is a very special day," said Johnny Hulsey, who led the effort to erect the monument in 2007 at the park off West Academy Street and Northside Drive. "This monument behind us really means a lot."

He went on to say that three of the 26 veterans were buddies of his at East Hall High School.

"They'll never be forgotten," he said.

The Hall County-based Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 772, holds the annual ceremony at the monument.

Vietnam War veteran James Gilmer read aloud the names of the fallen troops, choking up especially on Bobby Wells, who accompanied him and others from the Gainesville area to Vietnam.

The crowd also featured several Korean War veterans, who are working with the Vietnam War group to put up a Korean War monument at Rock Creek, in an area that now features a couple of park benches.

"I hope and pray by next year at this time, these guys will have their ... memorial," Hulsey said. "I think it's coming together and I think it's possible."


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