HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - The City of Hattiesburg honored our nation’s heroes with its annual Veterans Day ceremony at Hattiesburg Veterans Park on Wednesday morning.
Col. Rick Weaver, the new commander of Camp Shelby, was the keynote speaker for the ceremony.
Several other guest speakers were in attendance, including Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker, Councilwoman Deborah Delgado and U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo.
The University of Southern Mississippi ROTC concluded its 24-hour vigil at Veterans Park at 11 a.m. and the service began.
Vernon F. Dahmer Jr. was recognized as the 2020 Hattiesburg Veteran of the Year. He spoke to the crowd and received the Veteran of the Year plaque with his name added to it. Members of the Honor Guard posted the flags for each branch of the military during the ceremony, including a flag and a moment of silence honoring prisoners of war.
The Pine Belt Chapter of Quilts of Valor presented custom quilts to multiple veterans, including Amos Crumbly.
“In 1961, I went into the Army in the military, in the Army I took my basic training at Fort Knox Kentucky,” Crumbly said.
Crumbly has been awarded three Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars — all images featured on his quilt.
“I just want to thank everybody and praise that I’m back here, and I’m just blessed to be back here,” Crumbly said.
Veterans like Dale Medley were able to share their stories with other veterans, active duty and ROTC members at the event.
A Hattiesburg resident, Medley says he joined the Air Force to serve in the Korean War.
“I was graduated from high school and didn’t want to work and joined the Air Force," Medley said. "I was an Airborne Raider mechanic and went to officer’s training and became a navigator. I flew 50 missions over Vietnam dropping bombs in B-52s.”
Other service members say the Veterans Day event is a place for the military community to interact and bond.
Yair Cardona, a command sergeant major with the 1-305th Infantry Battalion, was inspired after speaking with veterans.
“I spoke to a gentleman today that served in Vietnam with the 173rd, he had some incredible stories," Cardona said. "I also got to speak to a gentleman who served in the Air Force as well and he had some pretty interesting stories. Again, just hearing their stories and seeing their faces as their reflecting back on their time of service inspires me.”
Douglas Willig, a lieutenant colonel with the 1-305th Infantry Batallion, says his two grandfathers inspired him to enter the service.
“Just being surrounded by people that have not only worn the uniform before but keep a powerful part of the identity and continue to support the community, just inspires us while we still serve and just gives us an idea of what life looks like after we retire from active duty,” Willig said.
The city of Hattiesburg hosted a meal and reception at the Veteran Foreign Affairs Center after the ceremony to thank veterans and invite them to connect with others in the community.