Large crowd gathers in Laurel for Memorial Day ceremony

Large crowds turned out for the Laurel Veteran's Museum Memorial Day Ceremony.
Published: May. 30, 2022 at 7:45 PM CDT
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LAUREL, Miss. (WDAM) - A large crowd gathered at the Laurel Veteran’s Memorial Museum on Monday, May 30 for a Memorial Day ceremony, to pay their respects to the men and women who gave their lives for their country.

After the presentation of colors, John Helveston and James Ducker led the crowd in the National Anthem. James Walters followed with the Pledge of Allegiance, and then Col. USA Ret., Schott Carson gave the invocation.

Gold Star Mothers and families received special recognition before the keynote address by John Helveston.

The Jones County Rosin Heels gave a 21-gun salute and John Rhoden played Taps.

Many in attendance were veterans from various wars, including World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and Gulf War.

Jimmy Bass, a WWII veteran, is a Laurel native known to many in the community because of his longtime career as a photographer and volunteer at the Laurel Veterans Memorial Museum. Bass enlisted in the Navy at the young age of seventeen and was assigned to the USS Harding Naval Destroyer. Towards the end of war, Bass’s ship was struck by a fleet of kamikazes, or Japanese pilots bent on suicide missions.

“I lost a bunch of shipmates,” said Bass. “I think not a day goes by that I don’t remember them in some way, shipmates that didn’t come back. I couldn’t be more thankful that God blessed me in bringing me back. I think about those guys who didn’t come back every day, and I want us to continue to preserve their memory.”

Burly Register, another WWII veteran, said the war left scars and painful memories in a lot of ways, but he also remembers the excitement of receiving letters from his wife back home.

“It wasn’t every day that they’d come,” he said. “Sometimes it’d be two or three weeks and then I’d get a handful. I would lay under the truck and enjoy reading them.”

Robert J. Polson, also a WWII veteran, said he remembered the young men that he served with in the war and was grateful to be at the ceremony honoring their memory.

“It’s a wonderful time to be here to remember,” said Polson. “I think about them boys when we were young, seventeen and eighteen years old.”

Johnny Henry, a Vietnam War veteran, said the Memorial Day ceremony was an opportunity to join with his military brothers and sisters and think about those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

“The ultimate sacrifice, you can’t do any more than that,” said Henry. “By them doing that, it enabled us to move the country forward, to make America great as it is today. The right to vote, the right to make our choices and to do the things we do as Americans.”

Jim Gardner, a Gulf War and Operation Desert Storm veteran, said he carries the memory of those who he served with and lost.

“Some of them go with you every day,” said Gardner. “The first Gulf War, I lost one right at the first of the war, and he’s with me all the time.”

Built in 2005, the Laurel Veteran’s Memorial Museum is a popular destination for residents in the Pine Belt and visitors from out of state. It’s home to several thousand military artifacts, photos and memorabilia that honors the life of enlisted men and women who have served the country.

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