The reasons to honor veterans were more numerous than the men and women gathered at Morgan Falls Overlook Park on Nov. 11, an event held on a chilly and sunny fall day.
The 116th Army Band from the Georgia Army National Guard played anthems. Children played in the park nearby.
About 200 people, veterans, their families and elected officials, gathered to listen to tales of heroism and stories about the little things soldiers do that people take for granted: a sentinel guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns during a hurricane; a young soldier away from home on Christmas day, guarding military base.
Then there’s the heroism of men like Jarrad Turner, an Army medic who suffered brain damage while serving in Iraq in Oct. 2006 and battled through his recovery, with the help of the Shepherd Center’s Shaping Hope and Recovery Excellence (SHARE) Military Initiative.
The keynote speaker retired Lt. Gen. James R. “Ron” Helmly, former chief of the U.S. Army Reserve, questioned whether the country fully grasps the sacrifice soldiers make for them.
“Many veterans like these and thousands of others do simply remarkable things every day,” he said.
As Congress has mulled whether to cut veterans and soldiers benefits to save money, he reminded those in attendance that military service isn’t just another job.
“It’s a responsibility,” he said. “It’s a fulfillment of a sacred duty.”
Helmly asked the veterans in attendance to stand if they served in World War II, Vietnam, the War on Terror and some of America’s forgotten conflicts, like Lebanon and Grenada. They stood in turns as he named each one.
He eschewed the politically correct way politicians term some military actions, avoiding use of the word “war.”
“If you’re flying an airplane, sailing a ship in harm’s way or flying a helicopter, it’s a war and we need to keep that in mind,” he said.
But as First Baptist Church of Sandy Springs Rev. Kenneth Link noted during the invocation, the event was not about honoring war, but honoring warriors.
“We do not like war,” Link said. “Only a fool would enjoy war, but father God, we lift up the honor and dignity of righteous conflict and we recognize there are times in this world when diplomacy does not work.”