Honoring our Veterans

Published 8:27 pm Thursday, November 8, 2007

For a few months, we have focused on several local Veteran’s stories and featured great photos of an era gone by. In honor of this Veteran’s Day celebration coming up I would like to revisit those great characters who sacrificed their time and talent for our great nation.We need to remember because we are producing a new crop of Veteran’s every day. We know the world is always a dangerous place and some things really never change.President Bush spoke to a group of Veterans recently, “The enemy who attacked us despises our freedom, and harbors resentment at slights he believes America and Western nations have inflicted on his people. He fights to establish his rule over an entire region. And over time, he turns to a strategy of suicide attacks destined to create so much carnage that the American people will tire of the violence and give up fight.”

Yet, his words rang true for today’s crisis, but he was purposely describing Imperial Japan and the events of WWII. He spoke further, “Yet even the most optimistic among you (Veterans) probably would not have foreseen that the Japanese would transform themselves into one of America’s strongest and most steadfast allies.”With all that has been written about the War, the President does put the positive spin when he speaks of our military, “There is one group of people who understand the stakes, understand and as well as any expert, anybody in America— those are the men and women in uniform. Through nearly six years of war they have performed magnificently. Day after day, hour after hour, they keep the pressure on the enemy that would do our citizens harm. They’ve overthrown two of the most brutal tyrannies of the world, and liberated more than 50 million citizens. As for our Call to Arms, we salute Dr. Ray Mitchell who served in WWII in the “Merrill’s Marauders” a group of volunteer foot soldiers that were sent into Burma and later China. Mitchell did not discuss his war experience until 1981 and now quietly shares his story. “I thought the war had hardened me and that I couldn’t cry anymore. It turned out that I still have tears left,” he states.

We remember Paul Nichols who was a B-24 bomber pilot in the South Pacific during WWII who had so many interesting stories about his experience he published a book.Lemuel Pearson just wanted to fly, he joined the United States Air Force and never regretted it. “A number of times I had an engine shot out. And when you had an engine shot out, you had to slow down, but the rest of the group didn’t wait on you. You had to come in alone. But I always made it in safe. Not everyone did that.”We honor a war Veteran who served in Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam, Roy Gjertson, who joined the Marines, “To me, being a Marine was the ultimate. I couldn’t see wearing any other uniform.

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W. B. Sheffield joined the Air Force in 1944 and eventually rejoined the Air National Guard where he was shipped to Korea. He served as a crane operator for an engineer battalion help building the famous floating bridges across Injim and Han Rivers in Korea in which Picayune Veterans are so familiar with.

We appreciate the service of Gunnery Sergeant James Mitchell who stated, “I’ve been in an awful lot of places, done an awful lot of things. Some of the things some people don’t believe, but I did ’em.” Mitchell was a POW from Wake Island and shared his story in the Call to Arms.

John A. Simms had an unusual duty, he served as a prison guard in Pearl River County with a prison camp for German soldiers.

A memoir written by Carl M. Holloway titled, “Happy, the POW” reveals his forty month ordeal as he suffered through famine, pestilence, and atrocities after being captured following the fall of Corregidor. The riveting story is harsh and disturbing what our POWs had to deal with.

Yet, we continue to remember, to honor and once again celebrate a day which celebrates a group of our citizens who gave so much for our country. We salute our Veterans every day, but especially on Veteran’s Day!!