In a room full of people at the annual Veteran’s Day celebration Monday, only one man stood when guest speaker Rep. Trent Kelly asked World War II veterans to stand and be recognized at the National Guard Armory in Oxford.
It wasn’t easy, but veteran Will St. Amand grabbed his walker and stood strong, smiling at the audience.
“World War II veterans,” Kelly said. “Some were farmers. Many went to college when they got back on the G.I. bill. They built companies. They built families. But if you ask them what they’re the proudest of, most will say, ‘I’m proud of those four years I spent serving this great nation with my brothers and sisters who were just like me.’”
Kelly has spent 33 years in the Mississippi Army National Guard as a Combat Engineer and is currently serving as a Brigadier General. In 1990, he mobilized for Desert Storm as an Engineer Second Lieutenant. In 2005, he deployed as a Major to Iraq. From 2009 to 2010, he deployed as a Lieutenant Colonel to Iraq as the Battalion Commander of Task Force Knight of the 155th Brigade Combat Team. He has received two Bronze Stars, the Combat Action Badge, the Bronze, Silver, and Gold de Fleury medals, and numerous other federal and state awards for his service.
However, Kelly spent his time at the podium recognizing other veterans from each war – World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and the last 18 years of conflict in the Middle East. He also recognized the young men and women currently serving in the military.
Kelly tried to put into simple words what it means to be a veteran.
“It means words like duty, honor, country, loyalty, selfless service, sacrifice, integrity, separation,” he said. “Those are just words to most of America but those are ways of life to people who choose to serve this great nation. People who choose to sacrifice so others may be free. And it doesn’t matter what generation you’re in – they continue to volunteer to do it.”
The ceremony was hosted by the Veterans of Foreign War with support from Oxford’s other veteran associations –American Legion, DAV and Order of the Purple Heart and Marine Corp League. The Oxford Police Department Honor Guard posted the colors and the Rev. James Petermann offered the invocation and benediction. Peter Arrington sang the national anthem and Greg Lovelady, commander of the VFW All American Post 3978, was master of ceremonies.
Lafayette County Supervisor Board President Jeff Busby welcomed everyone and said it had been an honor representing the Board of Supervisors at the annual Veterans Day event for the last eight years. Busby did not seek re-election to be elected Lafayette County Circuit Clerk, which he will begin at the start of the year.
“We want to thank you for the opportunity to come and offer our appreciation and respect for the sacrifices and efforts made by all of our military personnel, past and present, who fought to protect our freedoms,” Busby said.
Also speaking at the event was Mayor Robyn Tannehill, whose husband, Rhea, is a lieutenant colonial in the Mississippi National Guard.
“To those of you who served us, we will forever be in debt to you,” she said.
Toward the close of the ceremony, several awards were handed out.
The VFW Veteran of the Year was given to Mark Hammon for his help and dedication to the chapter.
The Americanism Award was given to Adelaide Chapman for placing more than 3,000 flags for the past few years on Sept. 11 on the grounds of the ATO fraternity house—where she is house mother—in honor of the country’s military and first responders.