LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. --The Gwinnett County Fallen Heroes Memorial remembered hundreds of service men and women for Veterans Day on Sunday at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center in Lawrenceville.
At the memorial, people gathered to honor current active duty members, and to remember those who died while serving America.
Organizer of the event, County Administrator Glenn Stephens started the memorial off by welcoming those who attended, including special guests. He gave a rundown of who would be speaking, and paid tribute to the fallen heroes.
Behind Stephens stood 13 granite markers listing all of the Gwinnett County casualties that have happened at service. The names listed date back to the first Native Americans to fall.
"We can be thankful to God, especially, that we have not had to add any new names to the memorial this year," Stephens said.
Speaking after Stephens was Charlotte Nash, Chairman, Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners.
"Let us strive to finish this work we are in," she said, "to bind up our nation's wounds."
Nash continued to speak at the gathering of the importance of the military to put their lives at risk to protect America. Some of those men and women do no come back home, and the memorial is a way of honoring them. Many are lucky to return to their families, and deserve a high honor for what they do.
"We must continue to recognize the service men and women who served our country," Nash said. "As troops come home, we are reminded of the danger that journey brings."
Commissioner Lynette Howard had quite the story as the next to speak. Both of her grandfathers passed away in Veteran Hospitals.
"He was everything for me," she spoke of one of her grandfathers.
Howard told the story of growing up, when her grandfather would come to spend time with her on Saturday mornings, which was their time together. She said he would bring her a bag of butterscotch candy, and have it waiting in the car.
The two frequented the Jacksonville, Fla. beaches, museums and the zoo. They also went to Naval Station Mayport, but Howard remembers at a young age, she was more excited for getting ice cream.
Howard then spoke of years later, watching a movie with her son on the USS Hornet, the United States Navy aircraft carrier.
"The Hornet did not have many survivors, it took a lot of courage to be in the water," Howard said. "I learned my grandfather was a survivor of the USS Hornet!"
Keynote speaker James Nelson Jr., Command Sergeant Major of the Georgia National Guard began his service in July 1971. He recognized the danger, force and history that is built by those that serve for the United States Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard, and the higher call they have answered.
"Among America's most significant commemorations," Nelson spoke of the memorial. The way he sees it, our country is forever in debt to our Veterans.
"Brave and courageous souls, they are one in all," Nelson said. "They stood tall in the face of danger."
He spoke of how blessed the people of our country are to live how we do, especially with the holiday season coming up. The sacrifices of all service men and women continue to inspire our people. According to Nelson, the members of the military have freely chosen to protect us, and give this as a gift.
"They only ask for one thing in return, he said, "to be remembered."
Nelson believes that to be born free is really an accident, as Americans could have been born anywhere, but they were born here.
"To live is a privilege. To die free for our children - that obligation is next to our generation's rewards," he said. "Always remember America will remain the land of the free for only so long as it remains the land of the free."
Joy Nicholson, who has lived in Lawrenceville for around 30 years, came with her husband Dale. He served in Vietnam as a Sergeant and was discharged as a Sergeant.
"We all just take everything for granted," Nicholson said. "For some ladies, we don't know about boot camp and living in the jungle, but you see so many of them all in one place."
According to Dale, coming out to the memorial is his way of honoring his country, and all the many men and women who have served.
"You want to be present and do something," he said. "All of those have names we can remember that really make this the reality that it is. It's those who have died under very bad circumstances."
Mr. Nicholson understands firsthand the sacrifices faced while serving one's country.
He said, "I know what the boys and girls are going through in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's the simple things like sleeping in a bed, having food and toilets... nothing like a good four-holer to start your day!"
The Nicholsons were grateful to attend the Fallen Heroes Memorial, as a way to express appreciation on Veterans Day.
"You're so grateful you don't know how to express it," Joy added. "'Thank you' seems so... not enough."
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