CHICKASAW COUNTY – Military men and women were honored for their service to country and community at local schools across the county on Veteran’s Day.
Students at Houston, Okolona and Chickasaw County schools assisted with planning and preparation for a variety of events Monday to honor local veterans and remember their sacrifice and service.
“This really warms my heart,” said Shamika Johnson, a member of the Mississippi National Guard. “Programs like this just show the community appreciates our service. I think it also teaches kids a lot about citizenship.”
Johnson was served lunch provided by the Houlka School District and then enjoyed a patriotic program put on by Elementary School students in the high school auditorium.
“I’ve always been proud to serve, but it is a sacrifice,” she added. “I deployed last year and my little boy was two when I left and he’s four now.”
Each veteran in attendance at Houlka got a personal letter from a third grader thanking them for their service.
In Houston, World War II Navy veteran Bill Smith gave the keynote address to high schoolers at Houston High School.
“My first station was a troop transport,” said Smith. “We carried them to the Pacific as excited young men. We picked up men who had seen combat and they just looked so much older.”
Smith also told of a kamikaze attack on his second ship that killed 92 men. He was sent to the USS Belleau Woods because the man he replaced had died in that attack.
“I joined when I was 17 and served 27 months,” said Smith. “I appreciate the time I was given to do a little service to my country and community.”
Smith also read the names of five men from Houston who died in World War II.
“Each one of them had an impact on my life,” said Smith. “We need to always remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Twenty veterans and their families were treated to a brunch in the school library prior to Monday’s ceremonies at Houston High School that saw each branch of the military recognized. The ceremony also saw each veteran in attendance called by name, asked to stand and their service record read.
In Okolona, veterans marched and rode down Main Street in the annual Veteran’s Day parade.
Hoover Richardson watched from the sidewalk, wearing fatigues and a commemorative cap recognizing his service during the Korean War.
“I was in the C74th Combat Engineers supporting the 25th division,” Richardson said. He served one year of, “front-line duty,” and seven in the Army Reserves and said the annual parade is significant to him.
“It’s very important,” Richardson said. “It makes me feel honored and recognized.”
Esther Fields was in attendance at the parade in remembrance of her husband, Jimmy Angelo Fields.
“My husband was in the Army National Guard,” Fields said of Jimmy Angelo, who has been deceased three years. “He retired from the National Guard in Aberdeen and went to two (tours of duty). I am here honoring his memories.”
Students from Okolona High School assisted the veterans who rode in cars or the veteran’s wagon as well as those who marched down Main Street. The OHS band preceded the parade playing, “God Bless America.”
Follow the parade, veterans were treated to coffee and snacks at the Rockwell/Green Auditorium.