Cullman resident Billy Jackson recalled driving a jeep while serving in Okinawa similar to one on display at the Veteran’s Day event at Sportsman Lake Park Saturday morning.
“I drove one in the Philippines, Australia and Quantico; It’s a good vehicle to drive but you don’t want to go fast in it, it can be dangerous,” Jackson said. “All of the displays out here today are impressive. We’re proud of everything that’s been accomplished and in building the new facility. It was really neat seeing them put it up.”
Crowds lined the Cullman Fairgrounds and the park as veterans, their family members and community members came to show their support and pay their respects at the festivities. This year’s annual veterans’ event focused on Vietnam vets with a “Welcome Home” theme and marked the coming 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the war in Southeast Asia.
“We have more and more support each year,” Jackson said. “It makes you feel good that people have respect for you for serving.”
For Jackson, Veteran’s Day isn’t just a 24-hour period to mark on a calendar, but a constant reminder of appreciation from the country he is so proud to represent.
“Veteran’s Day means our freedom staying protected, keeping our way of life and maintaining traditions through people sacrificing their own life,” Jackson said. “It’s a reminder about what was fought for, what was lost and what was gained. We had a good turnout today and we’re happy with the attendance.”
Among those in the crowd were state Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Cullman) and Hanceville Mayor Kenneth Nail, who both relayed how impressed they were with the equipment on display.
“It’s been a great day and I’m glad the community came together to honor our veterans,” Nail said. “I think the displays are wonderful. Some of the military equipment looks like it arrived straight off of the assembly line.”
“With all the veterans I’ve seen today, when they look around and see a huge crowd like this and the beautiful facility, they feel our support,” Shedd said. “With the facility that is here, this may become one of the biggest veteran celebrations in the state.”
Shedd went on to commend the recognition of Vietnam veterans, as he felt it was well-deserving.
“The price paid for our freedom continues and shows each day, but the price that has been paid by those who serve in the military is just amazing,” Shedd said. “You hear stories like those who have shared here and it’s great. What I’m so proud of today is the recognition to the Vietnam veterans. There’s no question with all the wars and conflicts that there are heroes in every aspect of our country, but the Vietnam veterans were never recognized and for our community to do that today really makes me feel good.”
Hanceville resident and veteran Ernest Boone said this was his first opportunity to attend the Cullman County celebration.
“This is great, big event, it’s my first one to attend,” Boone said. “It’s well-attended. The Marine Corps, Air Force, ROTC — a lot of branches are represented. I came into the military in 1966, served in Vietnam; I guess I served my time. This is a neat thing they are doing here for Veteran’s Day and it is appreciated.”
* Lauren Estes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 256-734-2131, ext. 137.