EDITOR'S NOTE - Veterans Day officially is Saturday, November 11. But in much of the country, it was observed Friday. That was the case in Pontotoc and Saltillo, where citizens gathered to salute those who have served our country in the past. WTVA's Mike Russell ventured out to both cities - and shows us how vets were honored "Southern Style."
PONTOTOC/SALTILLO, Miss. (WTVA) - Veterans day, a special day in America when we pay tribute to those who served in the military. It coincides with Armistice Day, the end of World War 1, 99 years ago, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
A commemorative bell rang out loud and clear. Eleven bells for November 11, Veterans Day Saturday, observed Friday. In Pontotoc, things started off early with a breakfast for veterans at the Community House. There I met Louis Johnson, an Army veteran, 96 years old. He survived D-Day at Normandy in World War 2. He fought in Korea, and he survived three tours in Vietnam. He has five Purple Hearts, and he's the oldest living veteran in Pontotoc County.
"I love my country," says Johnson. "I joined when I was 18 years old, I stayed 42 years. I could have got out at 30, but I loved it, and I stayed with them.
At the appointed hour, what many were waiting for -- the Pontotoc Veterans Day parade through the middle of town all the way to courthouse square. People were lined up on both sides of the street to pay their respects -- and all veterans, including Johnson, were invited to ride in the parade itself. Afterward, dignitaries and citizens gathered in the square for a patriotic salute - and music from three different children's choirs.
At Saltillo High School, on the other hand, it was more of a musical salute. Veterans and students gathered in the gym for patriotic music, and every vet in attendance was recognized. Lieutenant Colonel Rob Edwards of the Army National Guard delivered a special message. And the Saltillo Chorale sang "God Bless the USA."
As a veteran myself, it’s hard not to be moved by the outpouring of respect for those who served in the military. On the other hand, I never saw combat. And so to those who did, particularly those like Mr. Johnson, I say on this Veterans Day, "thank you" for your service and your sacrifice.