Staff Photo: John Bohn Linda-Lee Cantrell, 5, of Lawrenceville, tries to make a call on a field radio while seated in a U.S. Army 1967 Jeep M151-A1 during Armed Forces Day Remembrance activities held at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse grounds in Lawrenceville on Saturday.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Mike Brown, a U.S. Army sergeant in the Vietnam War, was touched to see the enthusiasm of kids climbing a military jeep and trying on vintage flak jackets. In some minor way, it signaled that the country Brown fought for will remain in good hands.
"I'm really amazed at how the kids reacted," said Brown, manning a VFW Post 5255 tent at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse on a pristine Saturday afternoon.
For the first time, a remembrance consumed the courthouse grounds as means to honor military past, present and future on Armed Forces Day. Mock military campsites and reenactments spanned from the American Revolution to present day conflicts. Entertainment included a patriotic tap dancing troupe, former "American Idol" contestant Taylor Bahin and national recording artist Freddie Way. The day began with veterans swapping stories over breakfast in the courthouse ballroom.
For all the attractions and the event's honorable purpose, some voiced concerns that more people didn't turn out. Organizer and courthouse supervisor Renee Avant estimated a showing of 200 attendees for events on the grounds. Her goal is to make the remembrance an annual event, but that's contingent on more public participation, she said.
"There ain't been that many people here," observed Mike Brown, a Marine Corps lance corporal in Vietnam, who collected donations for veterans' families in distress Saturday.
Those who did come left with a boost of patriotism. That's important, said Avant, who anticipates a steady homecoming of current servicemembers in the coming year.
"Hopefully our troops will all be back, and we want to raise awareness for that," she said.