Monday marked the 12th year the city has put on the event, which is conducted at the Twentieth Century Veterans Memorial Park, near downtown.
Miller Davis, 80, served in the Navy as a petty officer third class from 1956 to 1960. Davis, who was born and raised in Smyrna, said he was recruited.
During Smyrna’s Memorial Day service, Davis was seated next to his lifelong friend, former councilman Pete Wood, who was commissioned as a second lieutenant with the U.S. Army in 1955. Wood retired as a colonel from the U.S. Army Reserve.
Davis said Smyrna is a city where veterans feel honored.
“This is a good community for elderly people,” he said.
Commenting on what the next generation should do to show their patriotism, Davis said, “I really feel like they should give their heart and soul to this country. This is a great country. It was a privilege to serve.”
Monday’s ceremony was coordinated by the Smyrna Veterans Committee, an organization composed of the city of Smyrna, the Veterans Memorial Association of Smyrna and American Legion Post 160.
Smyrna Councilman Wade Lnenicka, who joined the U.S. Army during the war in Vietnam as an infantry officer and retired after 22 years as a major, asked the gathered crowd of about 300 for a moment of silence in honor of the 20 military men and women from Cobb who have died “during America’s fight against terrorism.”
Lnenicka said the most recent local loss was Army Sgt. 1st Class Omar Forde, 28, of Marietta, who was killed in Afghanistan on Dec. 17.
Vietnam veteran U.S. Army Ranger SFC Tony, 67, who is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Columbus and of the American Legion in Marietta, was a special guest at Monday’s event.
The son of a World War II Army Ranger and an Atlanta native, Foster enlisted in the U.S. Army on September 13, 1965, and was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade with the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment.
Foster extended his combat service for six months to serve in a long-range reconnaissance team — a small, heavily armed team that patrolled deep into enemy-held territory.
Foster was wounded on April 2, 1967, and flew back to the United States to recover. Then, in October 1970, he volunteered for a second tour in Vietnam.
As a member of the “Charlie Rangers,” Foster conducted 26 combat operations before becoming seriously injured during a helicopter extraction under enemy fire.
Foster described for the crowd what it was like to be ambushed by 30 to 35 members of the North Vietnamese army, which forced his unit to run through the bush to where a helicopter had lowered an aluminum rope ladder.
Foster said he held the ladder as the other five men climbed past him up to the helicopter.
By the time it was his turn, Foster said the helicopter was taking heavy machine gun fire, so he fastened himself to the ladder.
“He took me for a little ride, 25 or 30 seconds through the treetops,” Foster said.
Although his talk was mixed with moments of humor, Foster closed by reminding the crowd that Memorial Day should have a special meaning for every American.
“Of course I remember our war dead. But I also remember the war living, and we have a lot of those,” Foster said about veterans such as himself and the many gathered at the Memorial Day ceremony.