GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Monday was a day to honor our nation's military heroes at Gautier High School. Hundreds of veterans gathered at the school to be saluted by students for their service to the country.
The day began with a breakfast fit for a king, or in this case, veterans. The man drawing the most attention was Corporal Anthony McDaniel. The 22-year-old Marine and 2006 graduate of Gautier High nearly lost his life in Afghanistan two months ago. Despite losing both legs and a hand in an IED attack, his spirit is still strong.
Veterans young and old ate side by side, impressing the younger generation, including Navy Petty Officer Michelene Taylor.
"It's just great to see all of these veterans that have served before me, to go before me and defend my freedom and make America being free," Taylor said. "It's amazing to see all the veterans."
Some of the veterans remember a time when things weren't so nice, when things weren't so pleasant, specifically during the Vietnam era. But a day like this changes everything for Vietnam veteran Scott Macfarland.
"Years ago, you didn't wear your uniform when you came home," Macfarland remembered. "Today, there is so much, I guess it's patriotism and it's love and it's understanding today. It's not like it was back in the Vietnam era."
Inside the gym, there was a tribute to fallen Mississippians. McDaniel, a former basketball player, gave a pep talk where he vowed to come help the coach.
"When I come back in December and I'm standing upright, I'll be here to practice with you and help you work these basketball players out," McDaniel said.
The young marine's grit impressed Congressman Gene Taylor.
"I cannot believe that Anthony found the strength to be here today," Taylor said. "When I first met him, he obviously had just been wounded."
Hundreds gathered around McDaniel to give their personal regards to a man who symbolizes the word "hero."
Corporal McDaniel will fly back to Walter Reed Hospital for more treatment before returning home for good next month.
At Monday's ceremony, he was presented with a laptop computer and other gifts. The money for the gifts were donated by students and the American Legion.