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Veterans honored at Rock Creek, Lakewood ceremonies
World War II veterans stand Wednesday morning to be honored during a Veterans Day ceremony at Rock Creek Veterans Park in Gainesville.

The spotlight was on men and women in military uniform, as patriotic music played, stirring speeches were given and wreaths were laid in their honor.

Ceremonies honoring veterans took place Wednesday at Rock Creek Veterans Park off the Gainesville square, Lakewood Baptist Church in North Hall County and at several area schools.

At Rock Creek, a Vietnam veterans group unveiled a memorial that features about 300 bricks bearing the names of veterans from around Hall County who served in wars from World War I to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The group also recognized World War II veterans, with each one standing — or helped to stand — as their names were called.

“These are the torch carriers of today’s military,” Vietnam veteran Harold Goss said.

Horace Smallwood, one of three brothers who served in the war, said he was impressed by the brick memorial.

“I hope the youngsters keep it going,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, also addressed the crowd at Rock Creek, recalling his late uncle, a Vietnam vet.

“He didn’t talk a lot about (his service) or where he served and, when he did, it was always with hushed tones,” said Collins, an Air Force Reserve chaplain since 2002. “That’s what I find with veterans. They serve, they do their job, they come home, they continue to serve.

“That’s what makes today special.”

The American Legion-sponsored event at Lakewood featured Riverside Military Academy cadets posting colors, the Chestatee High School band and Maranatha Christian Academy’s children’s choir and a 21-gun salute.

Also, Jonathan Jackson, Hall County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard commander, sang “God Bless the USA.”

Retired Marine Col. James Benson, president of Riverside Military Academy, shared several stories about his service in Vietnam.

He particularly recalled fondly a private whose service wasn’t perfect — he slept on guard duty — and was regularly disciplined. Yet, when officers were asking for volunteers, “he would look at you in the eye and say, ‘Pick me, sir,’” Benson said.

“Marines like (the private) is why Veterans Day means so much to me,” he said.