Houston & Peach

This Veterans Day event offers combat veterans a chance to tell their stories

Navy veterans Bobby Jones and Vernon Mack sit at the Georgia Veterans Education Career Transition Resource Center in an open house in 2017. Veterans will be allowed an “open mic” time to talk about their experiences at the annual Veterans Day Celebration at VECTR on Friday.
Navy veterans Bobby Jones and Vernon Mack sit at the Georgia Veterans Education Career Transition Resource Center in an open house in 2017. Veterans will be allowed an “open mic” time to talk about their experiences at the annual Veterans Day Celebration at VECTR on Friday. wmarshall@macon.com

War veterans often avoid talking about the horrifying combat experiences that haunt them even decades later, but they have a chance to change that Friday.

The annual Veterans Day Celebration at the Georgia Veterans Education Career Transition Resource Center, or VECTR, is expanding significantly, including an “open mic” time for veterans.

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Jim Sehorn, a pilot who was shot down in Vietnam and taken prisoner, will start it off by telling his story, then any veteran who wants to can stand up and unburden themselves.

Retired Air Force Col. Patricia Ross, executive director of VECTR, said the event will be a good opportunity for veterans who have trouble talking about their experiences. She said it can be “cathartic” for them to get it out.

“I think in an environment like we have at VECTR, you are surrounded by veterans who understand the things we go through,” she said. “It is a very safe environment and a very important environment for someone to talk about their service. Just getting some things out that may have not been said for 50 years or longer can help that veteran heal.”

Sehorn, who was held in the infamous Hanoi Hilton for more than five years and was tortured, said he has always talked about his experiences. He wouldn’t say, however, that talking about it is right for every veteran.

“I can only share with them that I don’t have any of those apprehensions or hang-ups and I don’t know whether that is because I have been able to share openly or not,” he said.

Sehorn was awarded the Silver Star for actions in captivity.

The Veterans Day Celebration is in its third year and is much bigger this year. Last year it only included free breakfast and free haircuts by the barber class at Central Georgia Technical College.

In addition to the open mic time, called “This is My Story,” the event also includes flu shots by the health department and health screening by Houston Healthcare, all free for the veterans and their family members. Representatives of the Small Business Administration will also be on hand to help veterans interested in starting a business. Chick-fil-A is providing breakfast.

The event begins at 9 a.m. and runs until 2 p.m. VECTR is located at 1001 South Armed Forces Boulevard behind Huntington Middle School

Veterans Day is Sunday. Other events in Middle Georgia include:

The 18th Annual Jones County Veteran’s Day Celebration will be held at the W.E Knox Civic Center, 161 W. Clinton St. in Gray, on Saturday. It begins at 9 a.m. with a 5K and continues with a car show starting at 10 a.m. and a veterans march at 11:45 a.m. A presentation on the anniversary of World War I will be held at Civic Center Auditorium.

Georgia Military College will have a Veterans Day parade from 1-3 pm. Saturday in downtown Dublin.

A Veterans Day ceremony will be held in Macon at 5 a.m. Sunday at Coleman Hill. It is put on by Middle Georgia State University and Macon-Bibb County. The ceremony is at 5 a.m. because it’s the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. The armistice was signed at 11 a.m. in France, so accounting for the time difference the ceremony is being held at 5 a.m.

A Veterans Day ceremony will be held at Warner Robins City Hall on Sunday at 11 a.m. It is put on by the city of Warner Robins and the VFW.

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