Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Mahlon Burson, of Lawrenceville, who served in WWII stationed in the Philippines, puts his hand on his heart as the National Anthem is performed on Friday by the Alton C. Crews Middle School Band.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Stationed in the Philippines, Mahlon Burson of Lawrenceville was 19 years old when he began serving his country, working infantry in the Army during World War II.
"We were getting ready to invade Japan ... when they dropped the bomb and I didn't have to go," the 85-year-old said. "It was a blessing for my part."
Burson talks about his past with tears in his eyes while sitting the front yard of the Lawrenceville Visitors Center during the city's "A Day of Honor" for veterans on Friday afternoon.
"Well, I'm proud of my country," he said. "I didn't mind serving because I didn't get killed. I really appreciate people who put on programs like this (event)."
Other veterans shared memories from their years of service, including J.D. Allen of Lawrenceville. He never went to war, but remembers the intense training for the Marine Corps and years of active duty.
"They kept calling James Douglas, but not my last name," Allen said. "He finally called my full name and I realized it was me. It scared me to death. We were scared anyway."
When he finally went through training on Parris Island, he was later sent to Washington, D.C. in 1970. Protests were crowding the streets and out of control.
"When I was in active duty during the big march in Washington because of the Kent State shooting and we had to go up there," he said. "They didn't want your name on anything for the situation, so we had special suits for that. We camped out at the Air Force base during the march."
On Friday afternoon, veterans attended the free event hosted for Veterans Day -- one of several that will be held in the county. The men and women were treated to an "all-American" lunch, live music performed by the Alton C. Crews Middle School band, and a speech and blessing given by State Rep. Buzz Brockway.
"It's fantastic for the veterans to be recognized," said Tanya Oskey, who works for the Lawrenceville Vet Center. "To see that we're all out here, that we care, that we have services, we recognize them and to make sure that they're all doing OK, especially those who are coming back now, to make sure that there are people to help them in the community."
Veterans Day is officially observed on Sunday this year, and both Gwinnett and the city of Loganville are hosting additional events.
Gwinnett County's Veterans Day Ceremony honor the men and women who have served in the armed forces with military veterans and public service personnel at 1:30 p.m. at the Fallen Heroes Memorial on the grounds of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.
The city of Loganville is teaming up with American Legion Riders Post No. 233 to celebrate veterans from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Loganville's City Hall located at 4385 Pecan St. The event boasts guest speakers, presentation of the colors and the laying of the wreath.