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‘Willing to serve’: Veterans honored at VA ceremony and Veterans Day parade

SALISBURY – Americans can’t ever forget that they live in the greatest country in the world, Salisbury Mayor Al Heggins told those gathered for a ceremony at the Salisbury VA Medical Center on Monday.

Heggins, who retired as a captain in the Army, was a speaker during the ceremony and reminded people why America is the world’s greatest country.

“We have the freedoms that we have because of all of these veterans that have been willing to serve, and also because of all of these families that have supported the veterans that have served in the United States armed forces,” Heggins said.

The ceremony at the Salisbury VA was one of multiple events across the community honoring veterans on Veterans Day, including a parade later in the day that began at the Salisbury VA.

Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, began as a way to mark the end of the Great War that came to a close at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Nov. 11 became a national holiday in 1938. In 1954, the name was changed to Veterans Day.

American Legion Department Commander James Moore Jr. was the keynote speaker for Monday’s ceremony.

Moore, originally from Snow Hill in eastern North Carolina, served in the Air Force from 1960 to 1969 and in the Army National Guard from 1980 to 2000. He told the story of what led him to join the military at 17 years old.

“I was living in New York and wanted to get off of the streets of New York,” Moore said.

Moore said he served a number of roles in the Army, including supply sergeant, scout, tank commander, recruiter and trainer.

“After spending nine and a half years in the Air Force, I spent 19 and a half years in the Army gaining common sense,” Moore said.

Moore said that, through his time in the service, he learned things that he never would have otherwise. And during his speech, Moore also paid tribute to fellow veterans.

“I spent three and a half days last week to see what this hospital is doing for veterans, and I feel proud,” he said. “If you are a veteran who has given their life and given their time away from their families, I want to say thank you for what you do.”

Steven Fezler, director of Salisbury National Cemetery, said it is important to remember the dedication of veterans and, more specifically, for veterans to tell their stories to their children and grandchildren so that their sacrifices are not forgotten.

Hercules Shannon, who has been a volunteer at the Hefner VA Medical center for 22 years, served in the military for 17 years, including three tours in Germany and one in Korea. He also served in places such as Fort Stewart, Georgia, and Fort Jackson, South Carolina, as well as Oklahoma, Maryland and New Jersey. Shannon was also among the attendees of Monday’s event.

“We want to see this place full not just one time but every time. The more people that come to events like this, the better,” Shannon said.

Students with Salisbury High School’s JROTC were among those in attendance, too.

Andrew Lor, an 11th-grader, said he enjoyed hearing the national anthem by Martha Corriher and that JROTC teaches him citizenship and leadership.

“It teaches you how to respect people, to not judge people for who they are, and to get together talk and communicate,” Lor said.

Three veterans were presented with awards during Monday’s ceremony — Charles Akins, who received Veteran of the Year; Chaplain Harold Andrews, who received Chaplain of the Year; and Lewis Reid, who received Service Officer of the Year.

Akins and Reid are members of J.C. Price American Legion Post 107. Andrews is a member of Harold B. Jarrett American Legion Post.

The ceremony was followed by the annual Veterans Day parade, which began on the VA Medical Center campus and regrouped for a trip through downtown Salisbury, from West Harrison to South Main streets and ending at Soldier’s Memorial Church.

The parade featured military vehicles, smiles and waves from multiple city officials and representatives as well as music by marching bands and members of the JROTC from South Rowan High, East Rowan High, Carson High, West Rowan High and North Rowan High schools.

Army veteran John Krider said the parade brought back memories for him. Krider was a chaplain while serving 20 years in the military.

“I enjoyed being in the service and what I did, working with people and seeing lives changed. I enjoyed helping people and doing the work of the Lord,” he said.

Navy veteran Callie Johnson said veterans need to know that they are appreciated.

“A lot of older veterans feel that they are not appreciated. I often try to thank them and show support,” she said.

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