Jackson event to honor veterans, POWS

Published 6:00 am Friday, November 7, 2003

American armed forces veterans will be honored in a specialcelebration Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jacksonwith special guests Oliver North and Ron Young.

The event will pay special tribute to the prisoners of war fromOperation Iraqi Freedom, families of Mississippi soldiers killed inthat conflict, Medal of Honor winners, veterans of all wars orconflicts, and active duty military members.

Mississippi presently has approximately 4,500 active nationalguardsmen and reservists with approximately 1,500 of the 2,200active guardsmen stationed in Iraq or Kuwait. In addition, thestate has more than 225,000 veterans living in its borders.

The event is open to the public and features many elements ofinterest for families. There will be military equipment displays onthe north end of the fairgrounds, adjacent to the coliseum, thatwill include static displays of helicopters, Humvees, an artilleryHowitzer, Bradley fighting vehicle, and an Avenger missilesystem.

Special events include speeches by Ron Young Jr., an OperationIraqi Freedom helicopter pilot who was shot down and held captiveby the Iraqis, and Oliver North.

Young dreamed of flying jets since the age of five while hegrowing up in Lithia Springs, Ga. He enlisted in the Army when helearned he could fly Apache attack helicopters.

On March 23, 2003, during his first combat mission in the Iraqiwar, he and co-pilot Chief Warrant Officer David Williams went downin their Apache Longbow during an intense firefight about 50 milessouthwest of Baghdad.

The two warrant officers eluded pursuing Iraqi soldiers for morethan an hour, but were finally captured and held prisoner for 22days.

Two attempts were made to rescue the pilots, but failed becauseof intense counterfire. A third attempt was successful and Young,Williams, and five other POWs were rescued by the Marines.

“That was awesome … beyond words,” Young said in a releasepromoting the event. “I was ecstatic. It was the greatest day in mylife.”

North is a combat-decorated Marine, a No. 1 best-selling author,the founder of a small business, an inventor with three U.S.patents, a syndicated columnist, the host of nationally-syndicateddaily radio show, and the host of “War Stories” on the Fox NewsChannel.

He was born in San Antonio, Texas, graduated from the U.S. NavalAcademy in Annapolis, Md., and served 22 years as a Marine. Hisawards for service in combat include the Silver Star, Bronze Starfor valor, and two Purple Hearts for wounds taken in action.

Other events will honor veterans, their families, or those whocontributed much of their life to helping them.

One of those is senior statesman G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery ofMeridian, who will be honored during a special presentation for hislifelong support of America’s and Mississippi’s armed services.Montgomery sponsored the G.I. Bill named in his honor as well asother being a staunch supporter of the military during his years inoffice.

Other special guests include Medal of Honor winners Jack Lucasof Hattiesburg, Ed Freeman of Boise, Idaho, and Van Barfoot ofRichmond, Va.