On Friday November 9th, Gilmer County honored its veterans with a special Veterans Day Celebration.
The celebration started with a parade beginning at the Ellijay First United Methodist Church featuring the 52nd Squadron of the Wheeler High School ROTC program in Marietta, Ga and several of the county’s past war heros, followed by a ceremony in downtown Ellijay.
In the beggining of the ceremony, emcee Sam Burrell, retired U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sergeant and Commander-Captain of the Ellijay Civil Air Patrol, recognized the parade’s Grand Marshall, Perk Umphrey. Umphrey, a Gilmer County Resident, enlisted in the United States Army in 1943 and participated in World War II’s D-Day on June 6th, 1944.
Pastor of Ellijay First Baptist Church Dr. David Drake delivered the invocation, followed by Gilmer County Scout Troop 402 leading the Pledge of Allegiance. Patsy Pittman sang the National Anthem and later, a Huey Helicopter flew over the crowd in a solemn Veterans Day tribute.
During his invocation Drake said he was grateful to be standing with his freedom to honor such a day.
“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose is the path of surrender or submission,”
he said, citing President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 Cold War speech.
Citizen of the Year Lex Rainey, Miss Apple Capital Tara Clance, Miss Apple Queen Colbie Chastain, and past President of the Ellijay Lions Club Merle Howell Naylor were also recognized.
Directed by Joe Pfleuger, The Gilmer County High School (GCHS) Band performed a poignant salute to the Armed Forces, while GHS Choral Director Sarah Harbin lead the chorus in a Patriotic Salute. Later, Ellijay First Baptist Church Music Minister Scott Eaton performed a rendition of “God Bless the USA.”
In addition to the musical tributes, Lions Club past President Naylor introduced the winners of this year’s Veterans Day Essay and Poster contest. For the last nineteen years, the Lions Club has sponsored the contest, with a different theme each year. This year’s theme was “Freedom Whatever It Takes”.
The winners of the contest are listed below:
3rd Grade- Ellie Teague, 4th Grade- John Bowman, 5th Grade- Emilee Gonzales
6th Grade- Erica Sharp, 7th Makayla Roberson, 8th Grade- Jessica Cisneros, 9th Grade- Cantrell Earley, 10th Grade- Madison Macaulay, 11th Grade- Cameron Perry, and 12th Grade- Amye Jeans.
At the end of the ceremony, the Wheeler High School ROTC helped place a wreath honoring all past and present veterans on the veterans monument located at the middle of downtown Ellijay, while George McClellan performed “Amazing Grace” and the Blue Ridge Disabled American Veterans Honor Guard performed a 21 Gun Salute. Former Gilmer High School Bank Bugler Jordan Bailey then performed TAPS, while members of the Wheeler High School Junior ROTC lowered Gilmer County’s flag at half staff.
After the event, Burrell spoke kindly of what Veterans Day means to him.
“Veterans Day means everything that we can do to honor those who served who gave us the freedom that we have,”
he said, adding,
“I enjoy doing this. This is 23 years that I have been doing it, and I do it so young people can hear and see what veterans mean.”
As part of the Gilmer County Veterans Day Celebration, veterans and members of the Wheeler High School ROTC program were also treated to a barbeque lunch hosted by the Ellijay Lions Club. Gilmer County veterans at the Gilmer County Nursing Home were then honored by the Gilmer County Sons of the Confederacy at the Gilmer County Nursing Home. Residents honored this year at the nursing home included: Duanne Seveech WWII Army POW, Warren Coleman WWII Air Force, Arvil J. Clayton WWII Army, Tom Collins WWII Navy, Elmer Gene McClure Vietnam, Virgil Fletcher WWII Navy, Adolph Moebs WWII Navy, Robert Coffee WWII Army, L.C. Dillinger Korean Conflict Army, James Wallace Bice WWII Army, Phillip Hyatt Peacetime Army Reserve, and Dorothy Collins Korean Conflict Navy.
For pictures of the event, please view the slideshow below: