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Academy students honor veterans for contributions

Nearly 100 veterans of America’s armed forces packed the floorof the John Gray Gymnasium at Brookhaven Academy on Wednesdaymorning to be honored for their sacrifices.

The school’s Veterans Day Program is an annual event hosted bythe faculty and students. Veterans Day this year falls onFriday.

“This is to honor them for their contributions abroad and herein their community when they return home,” school Headmaster Dr.Miller Hammill said.

Battle of the Bulge survivor J.C. White, who served in theArmy’s 90th Infantry Division from 1944 to 1945, lauded theschool’s efforts.

“It was one of the best I’ve been to – and not just here becauseI’ve been to several in other places. They really deserve honorsfor this,” he said.

The Rev. Talmedge Smith, director of missions for the LincolnCounty Baptist Association, set the theme of the program during hisopening prayer and reminded the audience why the sacrifices ofveterans throughout history are still important today.

“Nothing comes free, and freedom is not cheap,” he said.

The theme was further expounded by the program’s guest speaker,Maj. William Merrell of Jackson, who spent a year in overseas inOperation Iraqi Freedom. A 21-year veteran of the Mississippi ArmyNational Guard, the Blackhawk pilot has been awarded the bronzestar and the air medal.

“I flew hundreds of missions in Iraq, but those aren’t what’simportant,” he said.

What is important, Merrell said, is that the unit built anemergency ward in a hospital and a school and provided permanentwater service to communities that had never had those things.

The enrichment of lives overseas, he said, is only possibletoday because of the freedom veterans of the past struggled toachieve. Those sacrifices have made America’s all-volunteermilitary one of the most respected in the world today.

“Tomorrow’s leaders are in schools like Brookhaven Academy. Wehave endured as a nation for 229 years on the backs of ourveterans” both while they are in the military and through serviceto their communities when they return home, he said.

Students of the academy’s elementary school treated the veteransto several songs during the program.

Sophomores from the school greeted the veterans at the door onarrival.

Similar programs will be held at some area schools throughFriday.

West Lincoln Attendance Center will honor veterans during aprogram at 9 a.m. Friday.