A salute to America’s heroes

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, December 10, 2014

PEARL RIVER COUNTY’S HEROES: The Senior Center of South Pearl River County hosted a reception Friday for veterans and active military.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

PEARL RIVER COUNTY’S HEROES: The Senior Center of South Pearl River County hosted a reception Friday for veterans and active military.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

Last Friday, the Senior Center of South Pearl River County hosted a “Salute to Our Veterans Reception.”
For more than seven years, the center has hosted this event for veterans and active military, Executive Director Darlene Adams said.
“Our former hula class instructor, the late Wanda Orr, had a love for the Hawaiian Islands and its culture,” Adams said. “She wanted to recognize Pearl Harbor Day and honor our veterans. She would send special invitations to some of the veterans and have the hula class perform for them.”
Friday’s reception began with a welcome from Adams and devotion by Senior Center participants coordinator Kathleen Penton.
The GFWC-MFWC Civic Woman’s Club of Picayune provided refreshments.
“Each year we can count on them to help the center make this event available to our Veterans,” Adams said.
Frank Egger with the Army-National Guard Reserve led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance.
According to Adams, in the past several noteworthy people have spoken at the event, including State Senators Angela Hill and Tony Smith, State Representative Mark Formby and representatives from U.S. Congressman Steve Palazzo’s office.
“In the past, we would go around the room and ask our veterans and active military their name and branch of service,” Adams said. “This year, we wanted our veterans to be in the spotlight and for those willing to share their stories. As a result, this year our reception was very personal. One man didn’t want to tell his story. All he could say was, ‘There was blood and guts.’ It makes your heart just hurt for the pain that they must carry.”
Mrs. Junior Lewis spoke on behalf of her husband, a veteran of World War II.
Junior served in the Navy on an APD102 ship, traveled to Okinawa, Japan for the invasion. His ship was hit by a suicide bomber, which took the life of a doctor on board along with several others.
“These celebrations are great,” Junior said after the reception. “All veterans deserve it, they don’t get enough recognition.”
For some, there are many experiences still too painful to speak of.
Henry “Bubba” Lilly served in the United States Army from 1968 to 1970 and spent time in Vietnam.
“The one thing I will say about my experience, is when I left home I was a kid and when I came back I was a man,” Lilly said. “This center and my friends are what keep me going. We help one another.”
Allen Bell served in the National Guard 890th Engineer Battalion stationed in Picayune from 1983 to 2005.
Bell said during his time with the United States military he was given a good education, work ethics, was able to travel and learn more than one trade.
Bell is an Iraqi Freedom veteran, having served in Iraq from 2003 to 2005.
“I learned to trust my fellow soldiers, they’re your backbone,” Bell said. “During my time in Iraq, we did transport work, combat heavy zones and peace work to help Iraqis.”
Bell said it was an experience he won’t forget, and if he could he would serve his country again.
“It’s nice to be involved with this center and be recognized for the part you played,” Bell said.

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