By Anna Grace Usery, editor-and-chief, and Alyssa Schnugg, news editor
It is the Veteran, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the Veteran, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the Veteran, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the Veteran, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.
It is the Veteran, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the Veteran, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.
It is the Veteran, who salutes the Flag,
It is the Veteran, who serves under the Flag,
To be buried by the flag,
So the protester can burn the flag.
As commander of the Veterans of Foreign War Post 3978 in Oxford, Greg Lovelady announced Monday during the annual Veteran’s Day Ceremony Gail Wilson, was chosen as VFW Veteran of the Year.
However, Lovelady himself, was also chosen a Veteran of the Year, but for the American Legion Post 55.
“I’m a member of various organizations,” he said. “My father and all his brothers were American Legion members so it’s instilled in me. When I grew up a little bit yonder, there wasn’t much else to do. If you weren’t a member of the VFW or American Legion, you were just sitting on the statue on the Square watching cars go by.”
About 40 people attended the ceremony at the National Guard Armory despite the cold and rainy morning. The Oxford Police Department Color Guard presented the colors and Jim Nesbit, a retired U.S. Marine, sang the national anthem. Pastor Jody Schmelzer of Pinelake Oxford Church, gave the invocation and benediction.
Mayor Robyn Tannehill and Lafayette County Supervisor Jeff Busby welcomed the community and thanked the attending veterans for their service.
“We often take so much for granted,” Busby said. “We don’t realize the sacrifices that so many of you made for us to be able to enjoy our community and worship freely and to go about our everyday lives in a manner where we don’t have to look over our shoulders. That didn’t come freely, that came with sacrifice.”
Lt. Zak Smith, Ole Miss Navy ROTC operations officer, was the guest speaker during the ceremony. He talked about the ROTC program at Ole Miss and the quality recruits that go through the program. He said the average GPA for students in the NROTC was 3.4.
“That’s despite the extra work form their leadership positions, despite the higher academic, and despite getting up early to PT three times a week,” he said. “This is what the results of hard work and discipline look like.”
“I can say that Ole Miss ROTC produces consistently outstanding officers, and not just because of those of us who have our names over a door in Barnard Hall, but because of the amazing efforts of the veteran and military community as a whole to shape and mold the next generation of military service members.”
Oxford Veterans Home Ceremony
Across town, community members, veterans and their families gathered at the Mississippi State Veterans Home of Oxford to honor those who served in foreign wars that determined each American’s freedom. Dozens of veterans wore their military colors proudly, representing each branch as they sat awaiting the ceremony to commence.
Col. Lee M. Jones, master of ceremonies, introduced the new acting administrator at the home, Pamela Thrash, and handed the reins to Corporal Jeffrey Veazey, U.S. Marine Corps (retired), to lead the group in prayer.
Jones asked the veterans to salute as the Oxford High School JROTC processed into the common area to present the colors. After the Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem and retiring of the colors, the University of Mississippi’s Men’s Glee Choir sang a united salute to the Armed Forces.
“My dad is an Air Force veteran and I have a lot of military influence in my family,” said Jonathan Gibson, member of the UM Men’s Glee Choir. “I think it’s good that young people acknowledge this day.”
J. David Shanks Sgt. E-5, U.S. Army was the event’s guest speaker. His military service spanned from January 1971-1974 where he served as a mechanized stock control and accounting specialist and MP. After leaving the service he became an insurance agent, patient account manager at Baptist Memorial Hospital and small business owner. He retired and now lives in Saltillo with his wife.