Veterans Day event planned at Point Park

-A A +A
By Dave Taylor

Carroll County area veterans will be honored with special ceremonies at Carrollton’s Point Park next Thursday.

“To the best of my knowledge and the people I’ve talked to – the judge and the mayor – this is probably the biggest occasion ever for Veterans Day,” program coordinator Bill Chapman said.

The Veterans Day program is set to begin at 5 p.m. with a concert by the Carroll County High School Band. Also presenting musical selections will be the high school chorus, Helen Mumphrey and Brandon Stewart.

“It’ll be quite a night,” Chapman said. “It’ll be entertaining as well as a night of remembrance.”

U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major (Ret.) James Supplee will be the keynote speaker.

“It’s a big honor for me anytime I get to talk about veterans,” Supplee said. “I’m proud of our military and I’m proud that I served. There’s nothing greater to me than having that opportunity to speak about it. We all take life and our freedom for granted every day.”

County Judge-Executive Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson and Mayor Dwight Louden will also be among those addressing the audience.

“Anytime we can come together to show support for our troops and our veterans – especially at a time when we’re involved in two wars – we should do that,” Tomlinson said by phone on Monday. “We owe it to our veterans to recognize their sacrifice and their service.”

Louden said he hopes for good weather and a large turnout of area residents to show support for veterans.

“We’ve never had a really big celebration like this to honor our veterans,” he said. “I think it’s the right thing to do certainly with all that’s going on in the world.”

Supplee said veterans were recognized at a Veterans Day event at the high school last year. It gave him an opportunity to talk to the students about the price of freedom. His topic for next week’s observance is “Visions.”

“I plan to talk about the past, present and the future of our military,” he said. “I want to try to emphasize how fortunate we are to live in the greatest country in the world. I’d like to be able to get that over to people both young and old.”

Chapman, himself a veteran of 34 years of service with the U.S. Navy, will be the master of ceremonies.

The Carroll County High School Reserve Officers Training Corps as well as local troops of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America will also participate. The local unit of the U.S. Army National Guard will participate with artillery fieldpieces.

“We have the National Guard armory here,” Tomlinson said. “The local Guard has been very active down through the years and has served overseas on several occasions, including in Vietnam.”

Supplee was among local Guardsmen who served in Vietnam in 1968-69. The global war on terrorism has him concerned that our military strength may be lacking without a military draft like that which was in force while the United States was engaged in Vietnam.

“We live in a dangerous world nowadays,” he said. “We’ve got the smartest and the best troops that we’ve ever had, and we have the best equipment and technology, but because we’re an all-volunteer military, we just don’t have the numbers that we need in the armed services.”

Bleachers will be transported to Point Park from the county park for the comfort of the veterans who attend the proceedings.

“At the end a very impressive program will happen,” Chapman said. “There will be seven tables here each with a candle and a wreath recognizing those veterans who have given their lives in the service. The ROTC unit under their leader Joe Dickerson will march out and each one will step forward and light a candle on this table.”

The playing of “Taps” with an echo will follow the lighting ceremony. A 21-gun artillery salute will conclude the program.

“I think it will be a very impressive night,” Chapman said.

Several area businesses and industrial concerns have made contributions to ensure the program’s success.

“I’m just amazed,” he said. “The contributions are coming in. We’re getting a lot of help.”

Chapman joined the Navy in 1952 and after completing four weeks of boot camp in San Diego he was told that his proficiency on his entrance exams qualified him to be transferred to Pensecola, Fla., to begin flight training.

“The Wednesday before I was to leave on Friday, I got a call from a commander and he says, ‘Chapman, I don’t know how we screwed up but I notice you don’t have 20/20 uncorrected vision. Sorry!’ ”

Instead, Chapman was assigned to electronics “and that gave me my life,” he said. “I went on to college under the G.I. Bill and came out as an electrical engineer and went back to the Navy after that.”

Chapman, whose farm straddles the Carroll/Trimble county boundary, is a member of the American Legion Post. No. 41 in Carrollton. Organizing a special community commemoration to recognize veterans is his way of saying thanks to the military for providing him with a career.

“The Navy has given me my life—everything,” he said. “I’ve always wondered if I’d ever have an opportunity for payback. That’s why I got the idea for a special commemoration for Veterans Day. I hope we do it every year because there are lots of veterans here in Carrollton.”

Tomlinson was unsure how many veterans reside in Carroll County but agreed with Chapman that the number is high.

“Carroll County is rich with veterans,” he said.

“I hope we have a turnout like we’ve never had before,” Supplee said. “Everyone bring your lawn chairs, your blankets or whatever.”