On Friday Veterans Day was celebrated in Lowndes County and across the Country. While Veterans Day is now a day to celebrate and honor those who have served our country in the military, its origins go back to a day to honor those who had died during World War I. The armistice ending World War I was signed at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. That day became known as Armistice Day.
In 1919 communities across America began celebrating Armistice Day each in their own fashion. Most of the events honored those who had died in the Great War. In November 1921 America’s Unknown Soldier was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. A presidential proclamation was to be issued making the day a national holiday. In 1938 Congress made Armistice Day a legal holiday. In 1954, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a day not just to honor the fallen of World War I but a day to honor all veterans.
In Lowndes County the celebration of Armistice Day began in 1919. In Columbus the day was celebrated by a community memorial service at S. D. Lee High School. There was a barbecue and basket dinner in Caledonia honoring not just the fallen but also the returning veterans. The few living Confederate veterans attended to honor those returning from France. The Caledonia program began at 10:30 with dinner to follow.
The program opened with a singing of America followed by a welcome given by Rev. B.F. Lawrence. A response was delivered by Capt. G.B. Egger who told how he had gone straight from service at the Mexican border to France. Mr. Garnett, a local lawyer and orator, gave the principal address.
The newspaper account of the barbecue commented on Mr. Garnett’s address. “At the close of the speech Dinner was announced, which, at this time was the leading number on the program, for friend Garnett had held the large crowd until 1:30 o’clock and they were all in good shape to enjoy the fine dinner.”
The 1920 Armistice Day celebration in Columbus was called “The greatest celebration in (the) history of Columbus.” An article in the November 20, 1920, Columbus Dispatch by V.B. Imes gave the details. “It was the greatest patriotic celebration this city has ever seen and the events of the day, big and elaborate in their conception, went off with clock-like precision. There were thousands of visitors in Columbus and the city throughout the day was thronged with celebrants. Probably the finest and best feature of the day was the big street parade participated in by over three thousand people. It was two miles long and would have reflected credit on any city in America.”
The events included the local American Legion football team playing the “A. and M. (now Miss State) Prep, team on the Barrow Memorial School campus. The game resulted in a victory for the visitors; score 14 to 0.”
Friday Caledonia had its first Veteran’s Day parade. The keynote address was given by Lt. Col. Tony McKee who with members of the 43rd Flying Training Squadron from Columbus Air Force Base marched in the parade. Lt. Col. McKee’s remarks are well worth repeating.
“Good morning, I’m Lt. Col. Tony McKee. I am the Commander of the 43rd Flying Training Squadron. It’s my distinct pleasure to be here today with members of my squadron to honor the Veterans of the Caledonia and Golden Triangle community. Over the years, my Squadron has been involved with events in the community and have cherished those moments with great pride. Many of our personnel have been impacted by the Caledonia area, through the schools, the YMCA, or local festivals, this community has supported us so well. Anytime we have the chance to give something back to the community, we take that opportunity as the honor that it is.
To the Veteran’s here today, no matter which service you were in or when you served, you quickly learned the tension that is created between balancing aggressiveness with restraint. You took on the principles of the Warrior ethos that guide our conduct with your fellow soldiers…and advisories alike. Whether it was on the battlefield or behind the scenes in support; you carried the loyalty and duty to the People above all else, with honor, self-Sacrifice, and the struggle of self-improvement. Your service created the legacies at which we currently strive to improve on and honor you in ceremonies such as today.
I would be remiss if I didn’t speak about one of our local Veteran hero’s, Mr. Brad Freeman. The community lost a giant on July 3 of this year and I have no words to express the sadness the Veteran community feels that he is not here to be a part of the first Caledonia Veteran’s Day parade. Mr. Freeman was a shining example of the pride a Veteran carries throughout their life and he would most certainly would have been honored as the Grand Marshall! He was cherished not only as the incredible veteran and person he was, but also for the incredible support he provided for the veteran community around him. His service and self-sacrifice was so powerful that even our European nations honored him as one of their own. That truly is powerful stuff. Thank You to our local Veterans, and to the Veterans that travelled in from long distances to honor Mr. Freeman. Thank you for including the 43rd FTS to honor him and allowing us to learn how deeply held the pride in your service has been.”
We owe a great debt of gratitude to all who have served or are serving our country in the military. They have been willing to and many have sacrificed their lives in order that we are protected and remain a free people. We also must not forget their families who are also called on to make sacrifices on behalf of family members in the military. While Veterans Day is a day set aside to honor those who have served or are serving, it’s important to remember and keep those men and women in our hearts and prayers every single day. They are all heroes.
Rufus Ward is a local historian.
Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at email@example.com.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.