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Veterans honored for lifetime of service at Gwinnett ceremony

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Honor Guards from the Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services, Police and Sheriff's Department participate in the Veterans Day Ceremony and place a wreath at the Fallen Heroes Memorial on Friday.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Honor Guards from the Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services, Police and Sheriff's Department participate in the Veterans Day Ceremony and place a wreath at the Fallen Heroes Memorial on Friday.

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Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Shadows are cast by members of the Patriot Guard Riders as they salute the Honor Guards arriving during Friday's Veterans Day Ceremony held at the Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial.

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Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Eddie Oaks, a veteran of the Korean War, points to a name on the Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial of someone he knew. Oaks served from 1952-54.

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Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Members of the Patriot Guard Riders salute the flag during Friday's Veterans Day Ceremony held at the Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Clutching a gold frame that held a photo of her husband -- a photo seven decades old -- Mirian Wilson rested her chin on the frame and listened as officials talked about the sacrifice and service of military veterans.

The photo, black and white, is of William Clyde Wilson Sr. in his Army Air Corps uniform during his service in World War II in front of a red, white and blue flag, was framed just over two weeks ago, when Wilson was laid to rest at age 90.

"He had his military burial," daughter Kathy Hisky said, adding that the ceremony had all the honors except for the volley of gunfire. "He got (that) today."

The women were among a few hundred that turned out Friday for a Veterans Day ceremony at the Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial.

"He lived for the military," Hisky said of her father, who spent hours working at the Gwinnett War Museum. "He was very proud to have served."

While May Memorial Day ceremonies focus on the men and women who died in military service, Georgia Gwinnett College President Daniel Kaufman, a retired brigadier general, pointed out that Veterans Day is for the ones who came home, sometimes wounded, and continued their lives as doctors, teachers, engineers or public officials, contributing again to society.

"Some put their medals away and moved on," he said. "Some, carrying shrapnel and scars, found that they couldn't. ... Our service men and women have been doing right by our nation for generations."

Kaufman, who received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam and later went on to work in the White House and as chief academic officer at West Point, told the crowd that veterans are not only owed gratitude but good citizenship from those they protected.

"We are the heirs to a legacy of selfless service," he said. "We must embrace that and nurture it and, above all, preserve and extend it."

Before the ceremony, friends Mahlon Burson and Robert Norton shared some of their war-time memories.

Norton, 87, spent 10 months as a prisoner of war in Poland during World War II.

"I don't think about it a lot," he said, but added that spending time on Veterans Day to reflect on service is very important.

"World War II veterans are fading out by the day," Burson said.