By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
With only a few weeks to plan its celebration, the town of Greenville hosted its first Veteran’s Day Celebration last Friday, marking the day with a parade, speeches, presentation of the colors and a ceremony in Haffye Hayes Park to honor veterans from the area who had served in all branches of the military. Participants and onlookers alike braved some chilly, blustery winds that tried to blow the red, white and blue tablecloths off the tables and pulled the occasional balloon loose, sending it sailing off into the sky.
While patriotic music played in the background, beginning with “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again,” the celebration began in honor of Greenville’s veterans.
In particular, the town paid tribute to three local heroes who had been killed in action: Vietnam Veterans John Roberson (Feb. 1968), Robert Bellamy (Mar. 1968) and Arelinn Jackson (Jan. 1969). A small candle stand in front of the gazebo held three votive candles, one red, one white and one blue, for each of the three men.
Other veterans presented the service flags for each branch of the military, including 92-year-old Earnest Sneed, WWII veteran, who presented the flag for the Marines. Dennis Gallon, another WWII veteran, presented the Navy flag. Lt. Willard B. Barnhart, a veteran of both WWII and Korea, presented the flag for the Army, Ronnie Moore presented the U.S. Air Force flag and Vietnam War veteran Ulyssees Roberson presented the flag for the U.S. Coast Guard. The service flags flew from the gazebo during the remainder of the speeches, ceremony and recognition of several WWII veterans: Rufus Crymes, Willis Bruton and Jessie Hunter.
The JROTC of Jefferson County Middle/High School served as the Honor Guard for the presentation of the colors, and Kimberly Thomas sang the National Anthem. The keynote speaker for the event was John R. Nelson, Sr., Past District 2 Commander, Department of Florida, VFW 2005-2008. “We are the ones who wore the uniforms,” he said, speaking collectively of all veterans. “We are the ones who died.”
Other speakers included State Rep. Leonard Bembry, Greenville Mayor Elesta Pritchett, Madison School Board Chair VeEtta Hagan and Madison County Commissioner Renetta Warren, Clerk of Jefferson County Court Kirk Reams and Monticello Mayor John Jones.
Monticello Mayor Jones, who referred to Greenville as “Green Acres,” thanked the veterans for their service, as did all who spoke.
“With our words and deeds and actions, we say thank you,” said Hagan, acknowledging that mere words alone were not enough.
“God bless America,” said Warren a few moments later. “And God bless our Veterans.”
As keynote speaker Nelson observed, recalling the words of Christ as he paraphrased slightly from John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man – or woman – than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
Greenville Holds Inaugural Veterans’ Day Celebration
By Lynette Norris