With COVID-19 cases rising daily, the Oakland Cemetery Association Committee had to adjust its annual Veterans Day program, but the group still found a way to honor American heroes.
Traditionally, a brief ceremony is held at Oakland Cemetery with veterans placing a wreath at the veterans’ memorial near the gazebo. All Gibson County veterans and their spouses/guests are then invited to hear a keynote speaker and enjoy free lunch at the National Guard Armory, where they are recognized by branch of service.
This year’s celebration was held exclusively at Oakland Cemetery. Rev. David M. Horton, a retired major with the Air Force and minister of First Presbyterian Church in Trenton, gave the keynote address.
“Veterans Day is one of those holidays that is near and dear to my heart,” Horton said. “Part of the reason for that is that I was born on an Air Force base. My father began serving during the Vietnam Conflict, and he flew over there for many tours. So, I was raised in the military.”
When Horton was 17 years old, he enlisted in the Army. Later, he enlisted in the Navy and went to nuclear power school.
“During my days in the Navy, I went all over the world,” he said. “It was wonderful except for one thing. It all looks like the inside of a submarine. We never pulled into or stopped at any of the really cool places like other guys did.”
After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Horton said he felt compelled to go back into the military – this time the Air Force – as a chaplain.
“As a chaplain, one of the things that was my greatest honor was to stand with our young men and women who were serving in far off locations away from home and family and try to offer them comfort and remind them that there was something far greater than what they were facing,” Horton said. “Sadly, but still a great honor, I stood over the gravesites of some of those brave men and women, and I honored them and thanked them for their service as we laid them to rest. Here in this cemetery, there are many vets who have gone before us who are laid to rest. It is an honor and privilege to honor them today.”
Horton said veterans didn’t wear the uniform or sacrifice for the glory or the thanks of a grateful nation but because service was in their hearts. He said it’s up to veterans continue their service by remembering those who have passed, honoring each other, and teaching future generations the value of freedom.
“We look to our right and left and see the vets who are still among us, and we cherish each other, and we support one another, and we remember that we are brothers and sisters in arms linked by something most folks will never know,” Horton said. “And finally, to inspire the coming generation because some day we too will be laid to rest. There will be those who come after us, and we need to make sure that our nation is still offering the same opportunities that we received and that there are those who will stand up and defend her long after we are gone, under the grace of God.”
Gibson County Vietnam Veterans of America members Bernard Wooley, Navy, and Billie Wade, Army, presented the colors. Trenton Alderman Bubba Abbott placed a wreath on the veterans’ monument. Sarah Peeples and Margaret Peeples provided music, and Lauren Latta played “Taps.” Trenton Alderman Tony Burriss led the crowd in a medley of patriotic favorites.
Gazebo renovations – The event also provided cemetery committee members the opportunity to recognize the donors that contributed to the renovation of the historic gazebo. It was built in 1896, and thanks to contractor Richard Hopkins and the generous donations of the public, the gazebo has been restored to its former glory. Betty Poteet thanked all those involved with the project.