Area veterans take part in ceremonies

Published 6:00 am Thursday, November 12, 2009

West Lincoln Attendance Center held its annual Veterans Dayprogram Wednesday to honor the sacrifice of America’s warriors, andsacrifice itself walked through the door.

It wore a gray Army T-shirt and stood on metal legs.

Josh Wells, 23, is why Americans celebrate Veterans Day.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

While serving in Iraq in 2007, the McComb native lost both legswhen the Stryker combat vehicle he was driving was hit by anExplosively Framed Projectile, a high-tech roadside bomb fittedwith a copper disk that can blast through steel. The copperprojectile tore into Wells’ Stryker and through both his legs,above the knee. He had volunteered to take over the driving dutiesfor a friend that day.

Wells may be part metal, but he’s all man. He sat in the JackCase Gymnasium Wednesday morning beside his little brother, WestLincoln first-grader Jeremy Wells, with his head high, his chestout and bearing no regrets. The injury has helped him trulydiscover himself, he said, and Veterans Day is now his day.

“I’d do it all over again. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,”Wells said of his service. “Veterans Day has a whole differentmeaning for me now; it’s a whole different day. Before, you couldunderstand Veterans Day. After being in the armed forces, you canappreciate it.”

Wells was one of dozens of veterans – young and old, scarred andunscathed – who gathered in observance of Veterans Day Wednesday atWest Lincoln, Brookhaven Academy and other ceremonies around thearea. It was a day of prayer, pledges and praise.

Joe Speights, an Army veteran who served during the Korean Warand trained one of the country’s earliest guided missile programs,said the academy’s program honored him.

“I appreciate everything like that. I try to honor vets everytime I get a chance, and I pray for them every day,” he said. “Ipray for the guys in our two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan everyday.”

Roffie Burt, a veteran of both the Army and the U.S. Air Forcewho served in Vietnam, said the respect shown to veterans at suchschool programs was a vindication for his service in what was anunpopular war.

“Vietnam was an unappreciated war. We were kind of looked downupon, and I feel like we’re finally appreciated,” he said. “Themain thing is that your service is appreciated instead ofdespised.”

Army veteran Dell Beal also served in Vietnam. He saidMississippians’ embracing of Veterans Day, for him, has manymeanings – respect, honor, glory.

“Anybody who puts God and country first …” he said. “The truemeaning is to show your respect for your freedom, rights and thesacrifices of those that gave all.”

Vietnam veteran Steve Altman expounded upon the local acceptanceof all veterans. While serving a crew chief to an F-4 Phantom II inthe 366th Fighter Wing, he celebrated his 21st birthday, lost hisgrandfather and a few friends to mortar fire. He’d do it allagain.

“The opportunity to serve this great nation, the honor of beingfrom a town like Brookhaven that is so close knit, to be here withmy people, thanking me and my fellow vets for our service, makes mefeel so good,” he said. “It’s an honor.”