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Memorial Day event honors area veterans

Young and old came out Saturday morning to pay their respectsand give their well-wishes to veterans and active militarypersonnel during the third annual Veterans Parade.

“It’s a wonderful thing they’re having” said Van Hatcher, aglider pilot in World War II and one of the day’s honorees.

Hatcher was joined by his three daughters and several otherfamily members for the Memorial Day celebration.

Also honored were the late Opal Bert, an Army nurse from 1959until 1991, and Kenneth Robinson, a participant in the D-Dayinvasion of France during World War II.

Many visitors came early to the event, to tour the MilitaryMemorial Museum located in the old depot downtown and to view themilitary vehicles on display. Following the parade, a reception washeld for the veterans and their families.

George W. Richardson, of Brookhaven, came out to view the museumand ride in the parade.

Richardson was a member of the signal corps, stationed out ofCamp Shelby, he said.

“I served for five years, five months and ten days,” hesaid.

Richardson said this is the second year he has attended thefestivities.

Carl Gatlin, of Bogue Chitto, was also on hand for the events.Gatlin served in the Third Division, 30th Infantry during World WarII, he said.

Gatlin enjoyed visiting with other veterans as well as JanetSullivan, who is Region Four President of the Ladies AuxiliaryMilitary Order of the Purple Heart.

Sullivan, of Crystal Springs, said she was there to meet withother Purple Heart Medal recipients and to watch her husband ridein the parade with other recipients of the medal.

Col. Bradley MacNealy, the commanding officer of the 185thAviation Group, the “Catfish Brigade,” of Jackson, was one of theMemorial Day speakers.

MacNealy told the crowd of the number of soldiers who lost theirlives in sacrifice for our country in World II, Korea, Vietnam andIraq and asked that all who were present to honor those who havemade the ultimate sacrifice.

“Death is a tragedy of war,” said MacNealy, “Pray for thefamilies, and show respect for the sacrifices they’ve made.”

MacNealy asked the crowd to not pay attention to the people yousee on television, that protest against the United States presencein Iraq. The people of Iraq want us there, he said, which isevident by the 60 percent of Iraqi people that showed up to vote inthat country, despite threats of death, he said.

“The people want us there and we’re going to stay until we canturn the country over to them,” said MacNealy to an enthusiasticcrowd.

“We’re at war with terrorists,” said MacNealy. “And we’rewinning that war.”

MacNealy ended his speech by asking each person present to thankGod for America’s veterans and to thank God for America.

Marine Major James Christmas, was also a speaker at the Saturdaymorning event.

“Under the flag are generations and generations of heroes,” hesaid of America’s veterans.

He said Memorial Day is all about the veterans that are here andthose that are no longer with us.

“Sometimes it may seem as if you are unappreciated,” saidChristmas to the veterans attending the event, “but you are(appreciated).”

He said without veterans, Americans would not have the samefreedoms that we have today.

Also on hand was WLBT-Channel 3’s Walt Grayson, who told severalhumorous stories to the crowd.

He asked glider pilot Van Hatcher whether the uniform Hatcherwas wearing was the same uniform he had in the service. Hatcherresponded by nodding yes and jogging in place for a few steps toshow how he’s stayed fit, much to the pleasure of the crowd.

The theme for the Memorial Day celebration that each speakerconveyed to the large crowd was to thank a veteran for his or hersacrifice.

Following the speakers’ remarks, veterans and soldiers climbedaboard vehicles to make their way through downtown Brookhaven.Several of the passengers in vehicles threw out tiny toy soldiersto children as they passed.

The parade made its way through downtown and to the governmentcomplex, where the veterans and soldiers left the vehicles to awaita wreath laying ceremony at the Lincoln County Veterans Memorial.Following a moving rendition of taps, members of the AmericanLegion Post 12 placed a wreath at the foot of the monument in honorof local soldiers.