Area residents honor veterans

Published 4:01 pm Thursday, November 12, 2009

It started on Friday with the big Armed Forces Reception at the Picayune Memorial High School gym, where perhaps more than 1,000 turned out, and continued on Wednesday, Veterans Day, and it will continue on Saturday with the Veterans Day parade.

Representatives of the Disabled American Veterans laid a wreathe at the old City Hall veterans’ memorial on Wednesday, the Friends of the Library held their Tasters’ Reception at the library, honoring the veterans, and plans are still on tap for the Veterans parade set to kick off at 2 p.m. on Saturday on Goodyear Boulevard. Another Veterans Day event to honor veterans was held at Pearl River Central High School Wednesday afternoon.

It is a way of saying “Thank You!” to area veterans for their sacrifices for the country.

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It was not always that way.

Once there was no day honoring our veterans. The current Veterans Day we celebrate now, a federal holiday, derived from the celebrations revolving around the old Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War I, “the war to end all wars.”

World War I ended on Nov. 11, 1918.

The next year the first celebration of Armistice Day was held when President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation declaring a celebration on Nov. 11.

In 1938, the day was proclaimed a national holiday by the Congress, which in 1954 renamed it Veterans Day to honor all veterans.

Still on tap for Saturday, kicking off at 2 p.m., is the Veteran’s Day parade, sponsored by the Picayune Memorial High School NJROTC and the Mississippi Coast Watchers, a group which restores antique military vehicles.

Veterans will be riding in the antique vehicles and throwing treats to children along the route, which will begin at the high school, go east on Goodyear Boulevard, turn right at PJs Coffee House, turn right on West Canal Street, around back to Kirkwood and end on Goodyear Boulevard at the high school.

Sponsors of the event urged parents to bring the children and have a lot of fun along the route gathering the treats tossed by the participants, said Mark Thorman, head of the Picayune high school Navy Jr. ROTC.

At the Wednesday luncheon, Dr. James L. Schrock, head of the library board, cut a ribbon opening the veterans memorial display in the lobby of the library. Displays range from the Spanish American War to the Vietnam War, and a lot of period periodicals are on display, announcing the big events of the war.

One of the more interesting displays in the lobby is that of Col. Joe Sleger, who lives in Millbrook. He has lived here for 20 years, moving here from Morrero, La. Sleger is a 22-year veteran of the Marine Corps and received a battlefield commission in the Korean War. He attended the luncheon.

“As early as I can remember, I always wanted to be a Marine, so 17 days after my 17th birthday, I joined the Marines,” he said.

By the time he got his training, however, World War II was over. When the Korean and Vietnam wars came along, he was to get all the action he ever wanted.

“I was never really fearful. I always expected to live through it all. I guess I was just lucky. I always replied to people who ask me what my job in the Marines was. I always replied that I don’t have a job in the Marines, I have a duty and responsibility that I fulfill,” he said. “I was a complete professional. That’s the only way to do it.”

Sleger was a tanker and participated in the historic Inchon invasion, one of the most daring war operations ever accomplished by the U.S. armed forces , under Gen. Douglas McArthur during the Korean War. It outflanked the North Koreans.

Sleger served three tours of duty in Vietnam.

His display of memorabilia covers two display cases.