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Celebration honors local veterans

A crisp Autumn breeze kept the dozens of American flags surrounding Bicentennial Park waving as residents gathered there Tuesday to remember the service and sacrifice of local veterans.

“The reason we are here today is for our veterans,” said Elaine McLeod, commander of the American Legion Post #70, which hosts the annual Veterans Day ceremony.

Dozens of Pike County residents, many of them veterans and family members of veterans, came to Bicentennial Park for the 11 a.m. ceremony that featured patriotic music and remarks from local figures in the veteran community.

Troy City Council member Charlie Dunn, a retired U.S. Army sergeant and leader of the Charlie’s Angels retired military group, encouraged people to show appreciation to veterans.

“Just hearing the words ‘thank you’ means so much,” Dunn said. “I think about those of us who were blessed to return from Vietnam … and they didn’t treat us so well then.”

U.S. Air Force Colonel Lee Pittman was guest speaker for the event. He shared stories of distinguished Air Force servicemen, including Jason Cunningham, who posthumously won the Air Force Cross for valor shown in 2002 during combat in Afghanistan

“Where does this great nation get such heroic warrior citizens?” Pittman said. “From folks like you who bring up their children to know good from evil, right from wrong and that freedom is not free. “

Pittman told veterans in the audience that the significance of their service is not lost on today’s generation of youth now serving in the military.

“They get it, they understand, and they continue to honor your service and sacrifice far too often with their lives and limbs,” Pittman said.

The ceremony closed with the playing of taps as a wreath was laid at memorial arch for deceased veterans.

In brief ceremonies before and after the event, two new names of deceased veterans — Vernon Lockler and Raymond Austin— were added to the arch.