BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – They sat side by side, their faces a blend of young and old.
Members of the 346th Regiment from Camp Shelby and airmen from Keesler Air Force Base came to the Biloxi VA Thursday to salute the men and women who paved the way.
"We commemorate your patriotism, those who have risked their lives to preserve the liberty of our nation," Biloxi VA Director Thomas Wisnieski told the crowd of more than 200 people.
"Thank you for your service to your country. I'm also one of you, a Vietnam Veteran," said Chaplain Arthur Dawson.
The words, along with hand-crafted cards from school children, expressed their deepest gratitude.
"Regardless when we served, where we served, how we served, we have a story to tell," said Keesler 81st Training Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Andrew Mueller. "Be proud in what you have done. Be proud of what you are doing today."
Soldiers from Camp Shelby also delivered a plaque and boxes of donated goods to the veterans. Jessica Kroll realized the significance of the Veterans Day Tribute. That's why she chose to spend her 20th birthday at the VA.
"The tradition of honor and legacy of valor, me being a part of that, there are no words to even describe it," said Kroll.
"It means a lot. I've been on two deployments to Iraq and it was real nice to come in and talk with the veterans to see how it was, verses how it is today. I really enjoyed the ceremony," said Lakesha Christian with the 346th Regiment.
"It made me feel good that people care," said Susan Lusk, a former Vietnam Corpsman.
"I felt very proud to have been able to serve my country and I'd gladly do it again right now," said Korean War Veteran Charles Fields. "All the people that are in harm's way, I wish them all the best and come home safe."
They were soldiers. Today, they are heroes.
"There is no tribute, no commemoration, no praise that can truly match the magnitude of your service and your sacrifice. I salute you," said NaSon White with the 346th Regiment.
After the ceremony, the veterans, VA staff, and guests were also treated to a fish fry. The food was donated by the D'Iberville Knights of Columbus.