Veterans Day celebrated at Beulah Primitive Baptist Church

Published 9:18 pm Friday, November 17, 2017

By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

Pastor Tom Gardner III spoke about what he fought for and those who did not get back, and Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham spoke on the importance of observing Veterans Day at the Beulah Primitive Baptist Church Veterans Day Celebration held Saturday, Nov. 11 in Hope Hull.

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Willie E. Dixon, who was a captain in U.S. Air Force, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm and a member of the church, coordinated the event.

She said, “We’re celebrating Veterans Day with all of my friends… even though there may be an age difference, they are all my friends because we all have something in common, defending this county.”

Dixon said the program was held to commemorate Veterans Day and to highlight the fact there is a wonderful group of people living and having to cope with whatever they have experienced in the military or in the war.

She said the idea was to have the veterans relax, have coffee, chat with old friends and enjoy breakfast in a safe place.

Gardner, pastor of Beulah Primitive Baptist Church, is an Army veteran who served in Vietnam and who received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

He said the celebration Saturday was something he’s always wanted to see, a “Veterans Day that was somewhat sponsored by black people.”

He explained, because when he left in 1966, “I wasn’t fighting for white folks. I wasn’t necessary fighting for America. I was fighting for my people to have a greater opportunity. And as a result of that, with all of the guys coming now, it just makes me feel good. And I think it makes all the soldiers feel good. You know, these older soldiers, we were black and white back then. So, it makes a difference.”

Gardner told those in attendance, fellow veterans, that he was drafted into Army in 1966, a year after having marched from Selma to Montgomery.

While he said he was proud of what he did in Vietnam and for America, he was more proud to represent a people and proud today that those people would come to him and say thank you for your service.

He said, “It means more when it comes from people at home.”

Gardner also spoke about the tradition of the table that was set for “the man who didn’t make it back.” He said, “I know him.” He also spoke about those who didn’t get back because “the scars were deeper.”

He said he got back because he had something a lot of soldiers didn’t have, “a loving family.”

He said, “We had created such a bond with those 40 men we fought with in Vietnam that we knew that wherever we slept they’d watch our back and we’d watch their back.”

He said, “When I got home I could sleep because I knew my sisters and my brothers and my family would watch my back.”

Cunningham said of honoring those who served in the military, “Every chance I get I stand for those men and women of our military. I always tell people that we need to stand together because we don’t want to forget. We don’t want to sit down and turn our Veterans Day into muddy water.”

He said that was because, “We don’t want to mix our Halloween with our Christmas. We don’t want to mix our New Year’s with our Thanksgiving. We want to make sure that those holidays are separate and are recognized.”

Cunningham said, “That’s the same way we’ve got to do when it comes to Nov. 11. We don’t want people to change it to say well we’re adding this to this… make Memorial Day Veterans Day. We want to recognize our veterans just like we first started out in 1911 when we first started this.”

Cunningham said, “We are losing people who are fighting for our freedom for our rights every single day of the week. So, let’s not forget, and let’s instill in our kids the things that these men and women are fighting for.”

The program also included a presentation of the Colors by the Calhoun School JROTC, U.S. Air Force, under the direction of 1SG Eddie Howard and the National Anthem sang by soloist Sandra Glenn, a veteran of the Department of Defense.

The greeting was brought by Carl L. Turner, U.S. Army veteran.

Acknowledgement of those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces was brought by Frank Humphrey, U.S. Army veteran, the blessing was brought by Dwight Johnson, U.S. Army veteran, and the introduction of the speaker was brought by Earl Osborne, U.S. Air Force veteran.

The program closed with the singing of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”