Military veterans, with an emphasis on those who served in Iraq, got a thank-you celebration Friday afternoon in Central City Park.
About 60 people gathered around a picnic shelter for refreshments and entertainment, sponsored by Macon One Community Connections.
Brian Faulds, a former crew chief in the U.S. Air Force and a December graduate of Macon State College, leaned on his bicycle and listened to the music and speeches. When he came home in 1996, after serving mostly in the Asia-Pacific area but also in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, returning veterans weren’t greeted with much enthusiasm, he said. Faulds said he decided then to show up at such events whenever possible.
“There’s not a lot of this stuff that happens, so I like to support whatever is going on,” he said.
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Foulds has three children stationed abroad in the military now, and they’d appreciate knowing they’ve got public support, he said.
A van from the Macon Veterans Center was on site, and Foulds said he was glad to see it offering access to all sorts of information and assistance for veterans, including to the group whose shirt he wore: the Macon State College Student Veterans Association.
Returning veterans need help and support for the transition back into business, education and the community, Foulds said.
“It’s a big, big step, and it’s hard to take sometimes,” he said.
Community activist Al Tillman, himself a veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm, asked all veterans present to raise their hands. About a dozen did so, including former mayoral candidate Paul Bronson.
Tillman thanked some local political leaders for coming, including state Sen. Miriam Paris and District Attorney Greg Winters.
Among the entertainment was local rapper Que, and as he performed 91-year-old Richard Hunt nodded along to the beat.
Hunt, there with his wife, Sarah Mincey Hunt, a former candidate for Macon City Council, said he was glad to see people showing up to honor the sacrifices veterans made.
“This is a great experience to be out here, for some people to remember what veterans have done,” he said.
Hunt himself looks back fondly on his three and a half years in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. The Charleston, S.C., native welcomed the chance to travel -- first to North Carolina, then to Florida, California, Arizona and Texas, getting to know people he’d never have met otherwise.
Before alt-rock band Stranger than Most took the stage, Tillman promoted the PeaceKeepers group. He was one of several wearing the PeaceKeepers’ orange T-shirt, and said they’re recruiting young men to stand up against local violence, regardless of their religion, politics or origin.
“We’re looking for 100 men,” Tillman said. Starting Feb. 10, PeaceKeepers will also hold an organizing drive for women to work toward community unity, he said.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.