Vet: Getting home was 'wonderful'
Wednesday, November 13, 2013 12:00 AM
Korean War veteran Will Woods said all he can think about on Veterans Day is how much blood has been shed.
One of the over 30 floats in the annual Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Veterans Day Parade. The parade ended at the Choctaw Veterans Memorial where Chief Phyliss J. Anderson and Lt. Col. Don Ahshapanek spoke on remembering the veterans and honoring their sacrifices.
"You see how many people that come and give respect for the memory of those who served," he said Monday at the annual Veterans Day program in DeWeese Park.
Korean War veteran Willis White was there as well with his wife Catherine. Their grandson, Joshua Ladd, died in Iraq in 2004.
Ladd, a 20-year-old Neshoba County native, was killed when a rocket-propelled grenade struck the vehicle in which he was riding. Ladd was remembered at the time as a hero with a sacrificial heart.
The Whites' daughter has always attended the Veterans Day ceremony, but a new grandbaby had her at a checkup in Meridian, White said.
Ladd's sister gave birth to a little girl last week and his mother, Deborah Ladd, accompanied them to a doctor's appointment in Meridian on Monday.
"She has brought a lot of joy to all of us," White said of his new great-grandchild. "I thought a lot of times that if Josh would have made it back in and lived, there would have been great-grandchildren to spoil."
White was drafted in the Army in 1951 and landed in Korea on March 22, 1952. He was there until July 1, 1953, when he landed back in the states.
"It was wonderful to be home," he said. "It was wonderful. I wanted to lay down and cry. That is what you felt like doing. I was an ole country boy who had never been any further than Jackson except for one trip to Texas."
At the time, White said he didn't think Korea was "worth 15 cents" much less a young boy's life.
"Nothing was worth the people's lives," he said.
Korea is a lot different today, Willis said, noting the large churches that can be found in Seoul.
John L. Parker, a World War II Navy veteran, just barely avoided serving in the Korean War.
"We've got all of our freedom and this is just one small way to say thank you," Parker said prior to the Veterans Day program.
The ladies auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4396 passed out Buddy Poppies prior to the program, including Marguerite Marcangeli who has been doing it for about 45 years.
Guest speaker at the program was Col. Kenny B. "Bert" Gilmore, who urged attendees to honor their veterans, both past and present.
"Veterans Day is the day America pauses to honor every service member who has ever worn one of our Nation's uniforms," he said. "Each time our country has come under attack, they have risen in her defense."
Gilmore, a Neshoba County native now of Sebastopol, told how his group had just returned from Afghanistan where their job was to assist the Afghan people with improving the agricultural economy of the Zabul Province.
"I report to you today, the Mississippi Agribusiness Development Team is home safely with all 39 of the original soldiers who deployed to Zabul, Afghanistan," he said.
"We brought home a few calluses, sunburned faces, worn out boots and lonely hearts, but thanks be to God we are all home."
Gilmore thanked veterans for their service and sacrifice.
He talked on the price they have paid and the lack of recognition.
"Servicemen and women know what it's like to stand guard in the chill of the night while others sleep," he said. "They understand the meaning of hardship...standing watch at freedom's frontier far from their loved ones. It is this devotion to duty that gives us all strength."
In closing he encouraged everyone to stay involved in activities like Veterans Day programs.
Gilmore was the guest speaker for the annual Veterans Day program in DeWitt DeWeese Park.
Beginning at 11 a.m. with the airing of the emergency sirens, the program featured a laying of wreaths by veterans' groups and a presentation of colors by the Neshoba Central Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.
Kenneth Edwards served as master of ceremonies, while Aynie Whitlock sang the national anthem.
Leavy Shoffner presented the devotional and Gold Star mothers were recognized.
The program ended with a 21-gun salute and a playing of Taps by Neshoba Central High School band member Amelia Henson.
On Saturday, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians held its annual Veterans Parade and Program.
Following the parade, featuring over 30 floats, the crowd gathered around the Choctaw Veterans Memorial to listen as Chief Phyliss J. Anderson spoke on remembering all veterans, both Tribal and non-tribal.
"Today we mark another year where we come here to celebrate," she said, "those people that have served and are serving today in our military forces. It is with great pride and honor that we should participate in today's activities and show our gratitude."
After Anderson spoke the Tribe welcomed Lt. Col. Don Ahshapanek as the guest speaker.
Ahshapanek is currently serving as a brigade and battalion staff trainer at Camp Shelby.
"Across this country and throughout the world Americans will pause this Veterans Day to honor our brave fighting men and women who for more than 240 years have protected our freedom by their duty, honor and selfless service," he said.
Ahshapanek recalled his time fighting overseas and thinking about his and his fellow soldier's impact on the world.
"You know some people live an entire life and wonder if they've made a difference in the world," he said.
"But our veterans don't have that problem. Today we define our heroes as those who risked their lives every day to protect our homes and our country.
"Our veterans complete that definition."