Warner Robins celebrates Veterans Day

pramati@macon.comNovember 11, 2012 

WARNER ROBINS -- As Warner Robins Mayor Chuck Shaheen pointed out Sunday in his remarks to veterans and their families, “Every day in Middle Georgia is Armed Forces Appreciation Day.”

“We’re attached at the heart,” he said. “Robins Air Force Base is the heartbeat of this community.”

But as true as the city’s slogan may be, that doesn’t diminish the significance of Veterans Day for those living there.

Warner Robins held a Veteran’s Day ceremony at the Homer J. Walker Jr. Municipal Complex, in which many of the speakers emphasized the good works of local veterans’ groups in helping vets in need and the continued need for service and volunteerism in that area.

Jim Jones, a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6605 and the day’s keynote speaker, told more than 100 people at the event of the various good works that his post and others like it in the midstate are involved with to make the lives of veterans a little easier.

“It’s about vets serving vets, vets helping vets,” said Jones, who served as an intelligence officer during the Vietnam War. “You never lose that responsibility.”

Jones acknowledged several individuals and organizations who were present Sunday and the work they do with veterans at hospitals in Milledgeville and Dublin.

One of those people, Richard Fox -- who served as a military police officer in the Army for 24 years -- spends three days a week helping veterans going through all of the paperwork necessary to receive their benefits.

“You’d be surprised at how much paperwork there is,” said Fox, also a member of VFW Post 6605. “People come to us and ask for help. ... What’s said is you have guys coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan who aren’t asking for help. There are a lot of benefits for them, but they don’t realize it.”

Fox added that he and others have also rooted out people who aren’t veterans but tried to claim the benefits for themselves. He also said there are thousands and thousands of legitimate claims that have been filed but still yet to be processed.

One of the few people in attendance Sunday who didn’t have a family connection to the military was Kathryn Carver. But reading the book “The Greatest Generation” and meeting a World War II veteran named Benjamin Jones inspired her to start the nonprofit organization called Service For Service, which helps veterans from all wars through a variety of activities and events.

Carver said the ultimate goal is to build a hospital in Middle Georgia, because the current VAs are saturated.

“We provide physical and emotional healing,” she said.

Some of the organization’s activities include an upcoming weekend hunting trip for a group of veterans who have lost limbs, and a deep-sea fishing trip as well.

Shaheen said the city is hoping to build a veterans’ memorial park, and hopes to have $900,000 for it earmarked in the next special purpose local option sales tax.

“We want to have a special place for veterans,” he told the crowd.

Ben Damron Jr., an Air Force vet who served in Vietnam, said he is happy that the American public is much more supportive of the military these days than it was during the Vietnam War.

“It’s great they have started to appreciate veterans and what they do to protect freedom in this country,” said Damron, who serves as Commander of Post 6605.

Celena Wilson, an Air Force veteran who brought her children Makayla Leal, 14, and Zachary Wilson, 8, to Sunday’s ceremony, said her children have grown up in military families, so they have learned to appreciate the sacrifices those families make.

“It’s something I try to pass on to the girls in our Girl Scout troop,” Wilson said. “My thought for them is that (Veterans Day) is more than one day a year.”

Jones said he hopes everyone in the audience will find the time to volunteer with one of the veterans groups.

“We should celebrate our veterans every day, not just on one day,” he said. “Because they are heroes every day.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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