County, cities plan tributes to surviving military heroes

By Jason A. Smith  
Times Correspondent

When it comes to remembering when to express gratitude to your neighbors who helped purchase America’s freedom, just recall a series of ones – 11 at 11/11.

Attendees salute the Color Guard at last year’s Henry County Veterans Day Ceremony at the Veterans Wall of Honor in McDonough. File photo

Friday is Veterans Day, observed every Nov. 11 at the 11th hour to honor veterans from all American wars. Previously observed as Armistice Day, the federal holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954. It marks the anniversary of the end of World War I; major hostilities of that “war to end all wars” were formally ended at the 11th hour of Nov. 11, 1918, when the Armistice – an agreement to end fighting – with Germany went into effect.

Veterans Day is sometimes confused with Memorial Day, which honors those who died while in military service, one county official said.

A number of events to honor the living heroes of America are planned throughout Henry County on Friday, and two on Saturday.

Friday: County Celebration
In honor of all who have served, Henry County Parks and Recreation is holding, on Friday at 11 a.m., a Veterans Day Celebration at the Veterans Wall of Honor in Heritage Park at 101 Lake Dow Road in McDonough.

“Veterans Day has always been a day to honor America’s fighting men and women,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Joyce, U.S. Army (Ret.), the Henry County Parks and Recreation facility coordinator for the Wall of Honor and the Heritage Park Veterans Museum. “It’s a good day to remember those folks who’ve sacrificed a lot, including time with their families, and to say ‘thank you’ to the folks who are serving now, because they all serve to insure that we have the freedoms we have today.”

The program will begin with welcoming remarks from Fred Wilcox with the American Legion Post 516, as well as a vocal performance by Sgt. 1st Class Fred Pedro, station commander for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command in McDonough.

The Henry County High School NROTC will post and retire the colors and the Strong Rock Christian Academy School Band will perform a service song medley following the National Anthem.

Delivering the keynote address will be Command Sgt. Maj. Mittie A. Smith Ph.D., U.S. Army (Ret.), who spent more than 28 years in service. Dr. Smith completed every military leader development course and academy that the Army had to offer.

The ceremony will close with a reading by Helen Busbin, Regent of the Andrew McBride Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution; a bagpipe performance by David Gregory, who Joyce said is “remarkable”; and a performance of “Taps” by Jim Houston with Bugles Across America.

All day Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Heritage Park Veterans Museum will host special guests Kelly’s Zeroes from north Georgia, “an absolutely spectacular military reenactment group who will set up a WWII encampment outside the museum, complete with re-enactors in period uniforms, weapons and vehicles,” Joyce said. “They look and live the part. It’s a good opportunity to step back into WWII and see what life was like.”

Along with the encampment, Kelly’s Zeroes sets up a display directly adjacent called The Home Front, a complete authentic WWII-era kitchen and dining room area manned by ladies in period clothing. “It gives the viewer an idea of what is was like for the women at home during that war,” he said.

The Heritage Park Veterans Museum will also be celebrating the sixth anniversary of its opening.

For more information, contact Jim Joyce with Henry County Parks and Recreation at 770-288-7300 or visit

Friday: Stockbridge Parade
The City of Stockbridge is honoring veterans with a parade and luncheon. The 1.1-mile parade begins at 10 a.m. at the Stockbridge City Cemetery at 4380 N. Henry Blvd., proceeds down North Henry Boulevard over the bridge, turns right onto Burke Street, passes the library and ends at the Merle Manders Conference Center at 111 Davis Rd., which hosts the annual Stockbridge Veterans Recognition Luncheon that follows at 11 a.m. The luncheon is free for all veterans but reservations are required. For more information, go to

Friday: Hampton Celebration
The City of Hampton will host a Veterans Day Celebration on Friday from 11 a.m.-noon at the Depot Park at 20 E. Main St. S. in Hampton. Every year along Main Street, the city posts white crosses with the names of surviving veterans, each topped by American flags for a colorful tribute to those who served.

Friday: Legion Luncheon
The Willie B. Hatcher American Legion Post 516 is hosting its annual Veterans Day Luncheon at 1:30 p.m. at Shiloh Baptist Church, 262 Macon St. in McDonough. The event will honor veterans of all five armed services with special recognition to Prisoners of War and Missing in Action, Gold Star families, wounded warriors, widows of veterans and Vietnam veterans. The luncheon is free to the public and the guest speaker will be retired Col. Howard Butler, installation coordinator at Fort Gillem.

Saturday: McDonough Parade
The City of McDonough, State Farm and United Way Vets-Connect will host the 2016 Veterans Day Parade on Saturday at 10 a.m., in the city’s downtown area. Participants in the parade are asked to start lining up at 8:30 a.m. The parade route will begin at the City Parking Deck, and go around the Square and past City Hall.

Military veterans and retirees from all branches of service have been invited to participate in the parade, as well as family members of those fallen or missing in action. Wounded Warriors, Vettes for Vets, military units, ROTC and JROTC units were also invited, along with school marching bands playing patriotic music as the parade rolls through town.

The city’s first such parade last year was able to boost its attendance by offering the parade the day after Veterans Day, a day that is so busy for many of Henry County’s 1,700 veterans. Military vehicles to participate in the parade from the Heritage Park Veterans Museum include a 1952 medical jeep, a 1966 combat jeep with an M-60 gun mounted, and a 1967 M-72 Mule with a 106 mm recoil rifle mounted to it, Joyce said.

For more information, email Molly Smits at or Jea Gackowski at

Saturday: Fish Fry
A fish fry honoring veterans in Henry, Clayton and DeKalb counties will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. at Travelers Rest Baptist Church, 2112 Rex Rd. in Morrow.