Keesler commander salutes service of veterans

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - America honored and recognized its veterans on Wednesday. Several ceremonies took place right here in South Mississippi.

The annual gathering at the Biloxi small craft harbor, near the Purple Heart Monument, attracted a standing room only crowd this year.

Before and after the ceremony, people paused to reflect on faces etched in stone. Purple Heart recipients are remembered there.

"My father was James Milton Besse. Served in the United States Army from 1938 to 1960," said James Besse Jr.

A son remembered his father's sacrifice.

"From Africa, he went to Italy where he was shot up in Italy. They brought him back to the states, fixed him up and then it was time for Korea. And he went to Korea," said the younger Besse, who's father passed away in 1971.

Veterans Day sparks memories among those who served.

"We were a million of us, ready to go to Tokyo. However, Harry dropped the bomb and we didn't have to go," said veteran "Doc" Blanchard.

The commander of the 81st training wing at Keesler delivered the keynote address to the standing room only crowd.

"Veterans Day asks us to remember the sacrifices that our veterans have made for our freedom, sometimes at the cost of their lives," said General Ian Dickinson.

The Keesler Air Force commander spoke of the 37,000,000 Americans who served their country during five wars last century and the hundreds of thousands more who are serving in harm's way today.

"In each of these wars, there were countless acts of courage, performed by ordinary Americans. Men and women who understood that patriotism means looking out for your fellow citizens while looking out for your country," said Gen. Dickinson.

Barbara Chachitz helped pave the way for women to wear the uniform.

"I served with the 'spars.' That was the Coast Guard, the women Coast Guard. When we went in, they didn't know what to do with women. It was a new thing for everybody," said Chachitz.

These Americans do know what do about veterans on this day.

"To celebrate his life and his service to our country," said James Besse Jr.

The tragedy at Ft. Hood was also mentioned during the Biloxi ceremony. Veteran and emcee, Dick Wilson, asked everyone to think about and remember the veterans who were killed and wounded. He also asked that their families be remembered.

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