The Atlanta History Center thanked veterans during its annual Veterans Day Commemoration Nov. 11.
For the past seven years with the support of the Atlanta Vietnam Veterans Business Association, Atlanta History Center has coordinated an annual ceremony in honor of the federal holiday. During the height of the pandemic, the History Center streamed the 2020 event online.
This year Atlanta History Center was able to invite all veterans, military personnel, their families and civilians to its Buckhead campus either in-person or online to honor the service of all America's veterans.
Senator Ed Harbison (Georgia Military Hall of Fame class of 2014), Chaplain (CPT) Jeffrey Herron, and Atlanta History Center CEO Sheffield Hale were all in attendance. Musical guests included bagpiper Wayne Coleman, tenor soloist Timothy Miller and the 116th Army National Guard Band.
Colonel (Ret.) Richard White, a native of Norcross, was the guest speaker at the ceremony. White began his military career by enlisting in the US Army Airborne Infantry in 1966. In 1997, he retired from active duty and was later inducted into the US Army OCS Hall of Fame at Fort Benning.
During his 31 years of service, White earned many awards and decorations, including the Bronze Star Medal for Valor, Combat Infantry Badge, Senior Aviator Wings, Ranger Tab, Special Forces Tab and Master Parachutist Wings.
"It is so needing to have a day that we can set aside and honor and sincerely thanks those that need, that want that one particular word that we all hold so dear — the blessed word called freedom," White said. "May we never allow the phrase, 'Freedom is not free' to just turn into a cliché. Likewise, may we never allows us to not say with true sincerity the five sweetest words to this soldier's ears: 'Thank you for your service.'"
White continued on to describe his struggles returning from Vietnam with emotion clogging his throat.
"I am unable to adequately tell you how much those five words mean to me as a Vietnam veteran," White said. "As a Vietnam Veteran, I experienced close combat and the loss of young man next to me. For many years after my two tours there, either knowingly or otherwise, I had a large chip on my shoulder of resentment concerning the way Vietnam veterans were treated upon returning from that war."
"Today," White said, "I'm happy to tell you that I am at peace. And I'm pleased to tell you that the resentment that I fought for so long, does not now exist."
White recalled a recent visit to a school's veterans appreciation event, where he and other veterans were greeted by children lining the hallways, waving flags and thanking them for his service. White told the audience almost all the soldiers there got "sweaty eyeballs."
In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared Nov. 11 as Armistice Day, recognizing the day as a commemoration of the “war to end all wars,” one year after the end of World War I. On Oct. 8, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower recognized the day as Veterans Day in the United States to encourage widespread recognition of members of the military who served and continue to serve.
"60 years ago, on a rainy Sunday morning in Norcross, Georgia, a small group of 10-year-old boys were asked by their Sunday School teacher to start praying each night for two things," White said. "First, he said, 'Ask God every night to direct them to the woman that they would marry.' And secondly, that they would direct them to their life's work. One of those young boys started that very night asking God for those two requests."
"That was a 10 year old boy is now standing in front of you," White said, "and I can report that God did answer those prayers."