HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - About two dozen World War Two veterans were honored for their service to the country Thursday as part of a grand re-opening ceremony for the African-American Military History Museum.
That historic, 70-year-old building was heavily damaged in the Feb. 10, 2013 tornado, but it has been fully restored.
During the event, each veteran was presented a certificate and a few of them spoke about their experiences during the war.
"We certainly appreciate the appreciation, thinking about us," said Mitchel Gamblin, a World War Two army medical corps veteran from Jefferson Davis County. "And it certainly was a blessing and a privilege to serve on the behalf of our country," he said.
"I will cherish this (certificate)," said Elbert Hopkins, another army veteran who received the Military Order of the Purple Heart for wounds he got in the war. "You know, I'm getting up in age and these things will be a memory for my children," he said.
"Us being closed a year really, really makes me appreciate having people in the museum, because it really brings this building to life," said Latoya Norman, museum manager for the Hattiesburg Convention Commission. "And to be able to honor World War Two veterans, the reason this USO was built, is really, really meaningful to us here at the museum," she said.
The museum was originally a USO facility for black soldiers stationed at Camp Shelby during World War Two. It opened as the African-American Military History Museum in 2009.
Thursday's ceremony was also the kick-off for a number of Black History Month events sponsored by the museum that will take place in the coming weeks.