GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - A tradition of giving back to veterans continued Friday morning in Gautier. It's a huge tradition that's now been going strong for 18 years at Gautier High School.
The Gautier Veteran's Breakfast gives the school and community a platform to show gratitude and honor to those who fought for the freedoms we enjoy. One of those who fought is Anthony McDaniel Jr.
McDaniel is a Marine, triple amputee, and Gautier High School alumnus. He lost all but one limb in an IED explosion in Afghanistan in 2010.
"Once it happened, I'm looking, I'm checking to see what was going on. I tried to get up a couple of times and I couldn't get up," recalled McDaniel.
He remembers participating in the veteran's breakfast when he was in high school. Now, he has a completely different perspective. He says it's important to remember everyone's sacrifice.
"Mine is just more obvious. But, a lot of less obvious sacrifices that have been made by a lot of other veterans that are here or that we see every day in our everyday life, but we really don't recognize, we don't really pay attention to, so it's great for us to celebrate everybody," said McDaniel.
Keeping up this tradition of honor means the world to these veterans. There were even a handful of veterans who fought in World War II, like Emmitt Simmons.
"As we keep acknowledging it through the years, we soon forget what it costs somebody for what we enjoy every day," Simmons said.
Many of the students here at Gautier High, like Jake Franks, understand the importance of keeping this patriotic effort alive.
"I think it's an amazing thing to do for our veterans. Some of these people came back from service, and they were thought of as nothing. It's great to honor these people now," said Franks.
Knowing these students are coming away from the ceremony with new perspective and understanding gives veterans like Simmons some comfort.
"We're going to be in good hands," Simmons said.
The breakfast was started 18 years ago by then history teacher Susie Bounds. She's amazed at how much the event has grown when she comes back year after year.
"We really want them to know how much we appreciate them, and I want the students to understand. I think they have a greater understanding after today of the freedoms that we have, of the things we honestly take for granted most days. I think they're reminded of why they have these freedoms on days like today," said Bounds.
The high school choir, band, and theatre departments all pitched in for the effort. Elementary students also participated by bringing hand-written cards to the veterans.