Many locals and veterans attended the Veterans Day program Saturday morning at Veterans Memorial Park.
Tifton Mayor Jamie Cater welcomed the crowd and thanked local businessman Jack Stone.
“We wouldn’t have any of this if it wasn’t for Jack,” he said, glancing at Stone. “You’ve been a blessing in our community. Thank you.”
State Rep. Tony McBrayer, who was the speaker this year, discussed three levels — state, society and personal — concerning veterans.
First, he talked about the state level by mentioning some programs for veterans, such as “Troops to Trucks,” where veterans can obtain their CDL (commercial driver’s license). He also mentioned that a Georgia Jobs for Veterans Career Expo was recently held in Atlanta.
McBrayer said the jobless rate among veterans is high. According to the Georgia Department of Labor, “Georgia has one of the highest numbers of veterans returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the national unemployment rate for post 9/11 veterans has fallen consistently and modestly, but definitively, throughout 2012 — there is still much work to be done. Too many veterans continue to struggle to find meaningful work in Georgia and nationwide.”
McBrayer stated that more than 80,000 veterans are expected to be in the workforce by 2016. He noted that the website operationworkforce.com is one place where companies are specifically looking to hire veterans.
McBrayer, who owns a small business, stated that he has a veteran working for him.
“Support them, hire them,” he said.
Next, McBrayer discussed the society level. He stated that when meeting a veteran, shake their hands and remember the price they paid and are still paying. He told the crowd to remember the sacrifice their families make as well.
Also, he said veterans should be honored by making sure they’re not homeless.
“Men and women in the service have always shown up for us,” McBrayer stated. “Today, we can honor our veterans by showing up — show up as a good student, a responsible citizen...”
He said veterans are the country’s greatest debt because they are owed so much for their service to the country.
Lastly, on a personal level, McBrayer stated, “Thank you for being here.” He said he’s thankful to all veterans for the freedom of speech, the fact that he and his family can go to any church of their choice to worship and that he can show up to any vocation to work.
“Thank you for the opportunity,” he said. “Because of your sacrifice and many before you, I had an opportunity.”
McBrayer stated that when he was campaigning for state representative, he had the opportunity to go around town and meet many locals in the community.
“I’ve been humbled to serve as state representative for the last two years,” he said. “Thank you, veterans. I don’t believe I would have had that opportunity in any other country.”
Before he concluded with his speech, McBrayer mentioned a chapter from The First Book of Kings concerning Elijah.
He stated, “I understand why veterans get discouraged, but America stands with you. We love you and we pray for you. May God bless America.”
Also, during the program, Tyron Spearman, who served as the master of ceremonies, noted that the following individuals and organizations were present: Senator John Dickey Crosby, the American Legion, the VFW, Tift County Probate Court Judge Suzanne Carter Johnson and David Haire with the Tift County Sheriff’s Office, who worked the sound system at the ceremony. Also in attendance was Tift County sheriff-elect Gene Scarbrough and Vice Mayor Johnny Terrell, who is a veteran. A seat was left empty in honor of the late Henry Bostick, a well-known veteran in the Tifton community. Bostick’s family attended the ceremony.
Spearman mentioned that local veteran J.D. Lindsey, who has been a patriarch in the community, could not attend the ceremony due to a medical condition. He thanked the Exchange Club of Tifton for the flags at the ceremony. The Exchange Club sponsored a pancake breakfast early Saturday morning to honor and serve all veterans for their service to the country. Also, they rededicated the Freedom Shrine.
At the ceremony, Billy Wood with the VFW presented local girl Kelsey Rice, the daughter of Gary and Gail Rice, with the 2012 VFW Scholarship. Rice is a 2012 Tift County High graduate who graduated with a 4.0 grade point average. Wood also presented Stone with a plaque for “all that he does.”
“You don’t know how much we appreciate you,” Wood said to Stone as he handed him the plaque.
The Tifton Police Department Honor Guard, Brenda Saunders, the Rev. Dan Edison and Megan Pyles also participated in the program.
To contact reporter Latasha Everson, call 382-4321.