An entire community came together to show appreciation and support to veterans Monday. (Photo source: WLOX)
Students and faculty from throughout the school district pitched in to make the annual event a success. (Photo source: WLOX)
Gautier High School's Veterans Day Breakfast has become a tradition that draws hundreds of veterans every year. (Photo source: WLOX)
GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) -
An entire community came together to show appreciation and support to veterans Monday. The 16th annual Veterans Day breakfast at Gautier High School has become a Coast tradition.
For hundreds of men and women who served in our country's military, Gautier High School is a must visit each year.
"I try to come every year," said World War II veteran Bilbo Rodgers.
Rodgers sees the day as a chance to socialize.
"I come because there's so many of them that I get to see. Old friends, and I've got a lot of veterans that I know and some I don't know. I'm just happy to be able to meet them all," said Rodgers.
The school decks out in red, white and blue, and hangs banners, signs and artwork to make the veterans feel welcome. Al Sparkman is only in his first year as the high school's principal. He said he's seen other schools host veterans in a similar way.
"Nothing on the scale of what Gautier High School puts on every year. It makes you proud to be a principal, it really does," said Sparkman.
He knows how important it is to uphold the tradition that this day has become to Gautier and the Coast.
"Our veterans deserve the utmost of our respect and our appreciation for what they've sacrificed," said Sparkman.
He hopes to pass that sentiment on to his students. Sparkman said this puts his students in direct contact with men and women who have sacrificed so much. Junior Jose Colon understands that lesson.
"They worked really hard for our liberties in this country," said Colon.
For veterans like Emmitt Simmons, this is a highlight of the year. He served in the Navy for three years in the South Pacific.
Seeing this younger generation show a sense of admiration and respect leaves Simmons almost speechless.
"Kind of fills us up. Reflects back on what an honor it was to be a part of serving this country," said Simmons.
The event was made possible by more than a dozen different businesses and organization in Gautier. It also drew local and state leaders, like Gautier Mayor Gordon Gollot and Rep. Steven Palazzo, both veterans themselves.
The veterans started in the cafeteria for breakfast and a presentation by the administration and the school's choral department. Then, they were escorted to the gym where they were welcomed with a vibrant assembly.