Emotions Run High At Military Salute - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

05/01/04

Emotions Run High At Military Salute

Many of our military men and women are increasingly in harm's way as the death toll of American service men and women in Iraq continues to rise. Saturday, hundreds of people holding flags and signs got together in Ocean Springs for this year's "Proud to Be An American Celebration," all hoping to show their support for our military men and women here at home and abroad.

Kelli McKay and her two young sons watched as a Black Hawk helicopter landed at the "Proud To Be An American Celebration." Her sons already know a little about the military.  Their uncle just returned from Iraq. Kelli hopes Saturday's celebration will teach her children about how important morale is, especially during times like these.

"With all of the deaths occuring over there, you really want to get behind your family members because a lot of times they don't hear about their loved ones that are over there maybe three or weeks at a time, maybe more. So it's really important for us to stay behind them and keep their spirits up," McKay said.

And that's why this event is held every year--to boost morale and honor the sacrifices that have been made to preserve our freedom.

Many people at the event knew about sacrifice all too well, having served tours of duty overseas in years past. They say shows of support like this can make all the difference to a weary soldier, sailor or marine.

Vietnam veteran Ira Johnson said, "When I was in the military, back in the '60s, they didn't welcome us home like they do to the military people coming from the war today."

Johnson was injured twice in Vietnam, but his scars are more than skin deep.

"We were called child, baby-killers, women-killers and everything else, and that was during the hippie time when they demonstrated against the war in Vietnam," Johnson said.

But times have changed and injured soldiers like Staff Sergeant Jeff Barnes are glad to come home to find this kind of support. Barnes only wishes his fellow soldiers overseas could see the support they have back here at home.

"It is a little disheartening to them, not being able to come home, but they know we have a job to do and they are professional soldiers and they will do that job no matter what, no matter how long," Barnes said.

Toni Miles

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