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Veteran markers memorialize soldiers on Memorial Day

DULUTH -- Two decades ago, former Duluth City Council member and Korean War veteran O.J. Howell, Jr. traveled to Huntsville, Ala., during Memorial Day weekend and saw that its city remembered the fallen soldiers by publicly displaying the names of the dead and the wars they fought in.

He brought the idea back to Duluth and together with former Mayor Bobby Williams, the men came up with the idea of veteran markers in the shape of a cross with an American flag to honor the deceased men and women. The city continues to use these markers as they celebrate Memorial Day on Saturday at the Duluth Town Green at 6 p.m.

"It is a way to honor those that have fallen with symbolism" said Crystal Huntzinger, Duluth's public service information officer. "The veterans have told me every Memorial Day that they get a teary-eyed because of the way we honor the soldiers."

The tradition started with 10 marker crosses. Now, there are more than 750 crosses placed through the streets of Duluth, which takes eight days to set up.

This year, veterans from the Korean War are being honored due to the war's 60th anniversary. Each of the veterans will receive a commemorative coin in appreciation for their service. One side of the coin has an image of North and South Korea and the other has emblems of each branch of the service.

U.S. Congressman Rob Woodall, Mayor Pro Term Jim Dugan, Gwinnett County Commissioner Shirley Lasseter and Commander Phil Youngblood of the American Legion will present the coins to the vets.

In addition to the coins, the Legion Riders, a sanctioned organization of Veterans and their motorcycles, will perform a "Fallen Heroes Salute" by laying a wreath down to remember those who never made it back from war.

Since Duluth is recognizing Korean War veterans, they have asked veterans from Korea who served during the war to join the celebration today.

"The Korean (resident) vets are excited because we are reaching out to their community to include them in the day's events," Huntzinger said.