SPRINGFIELD — Even though the venue for Effingham County’s annual Veterans Day observance changed at the last minute, the purpose and solemnity of the occasion didn’t.
More than 100 citizens attended the Nov. 11 event at Effingham County Board of Education auditorium after it was moved from Veterans Park of Effingham County because of rain.
Dr. Yancy Ford, superintendent of the Effingham County School District, welcomed the audience.
“It is so great to see patriotism shared throughout our community, our state and our nation,” Ford said, “and I think it so important that we publicly express the love of this great country. That patriotic spirit has spread through Americans of all ages and I can personally tell you, from our school district’s perspective, we have to continue to instill that patriotism into our young people. It makes me proud to see children wearing patriotic clothing. It makes me proud to see teenagers putting a flag or a bumper sticker on their cars, or a college student painting flags on their dorm room windows and adults flying American flags as lawn ornaments in their front lawns at their homes.”
Ford then turned his focus to veterans.
“Today, we recognize those who have protected and continue to protect our way of life,” he said, “and we celebrate this day. We honor our veterans today because we know, without them, there would be no land of the free.
“Without the veterans who fought in previous wars, there might not even be a United States of America. And without those currently fighting terrorism, we would be living in constant fear or simply without our freedom.”
Ford urged that American’s gratitude for veterans should be perpetual and not limited to a single day.
“The best way to honor our veterans is to take an active part of maintaining the freedom that we have here in the United States of America,” he said. “We must teach our future generations about what it means to be an American. We must volunteer in our community. We must take care of our veterans and we must take care of their families.
“We must vote in elections and continue to try to make America the very best it can be.”
Guest speaker Rep. Jon Burns started his remarks by taking the audience back to Veterans Park — at least in its collective mind. He called it “truly one of God’s garden spots.”
Burns said, “It has been a shining example of for folks around our country and this state, as well as us, to enjoy the solace and peace that exists in that park as we remember those who have given their lives and served on our behalf.”
Burns thanked Tommy Allen, who presided over the ceremony, for his contributions to veterans and the park. Allen spent 29 years in the Army National Guard, achieving the rank of sergeant major.
World War II veteran James Sapp of Rincon, 98, also received special notice from Burns. Sapp, a former paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, was not in attendance.
“He’s a great example of putting service above self,” Burns said.
Burns also honored two veterans who died recently, Guyton’s Fred Griffin and Reidsville’s Jack Hill.
Griffin was the longtime treasurer for the Veterans Park of Effingham County Board of Directors.
“Fred Griffin was a proud and decorated Marine who served in Vietnam with great bravery and honor,” Burns said.
Hill, a member of the Georgia Air National Guard for more than three decades, served many years in the Georgia Senate representing Effingham County.
“We will miss Senator Jack Sutton Hill and think about him every day.” Burns said.
Burns said it is easy to explain why the freedom of speech, religions liberty and the right to bear arms have endured in America.
“Our American way of has been attacked over the years by many enemies both foreign and, yes,domestic,” he said. “And through the work and sacrifice of so many — and the grade of God — it has survived and continues to survive until this day.”
Burns said he prays daily that Americans will hold strong to the values of sacrifice that veterans exhibit.
“The sacrifice of our countrymen, by their service, has certainly made America the land of the free and the home of the brave,” he said.