GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - There was plenty to celebrate at the Armed Forces Retirement Home's Open House on Friday; an early Veterans Day and the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps.
The young know well what this celebration means.
"It's most exciting when I come to these things to see those children so they can understand what Memorial Day and Veterans Day means to our great nation and our great flag," said World War II veteran Charles Jenkins.
And for some, like fifth grader Jameriyon May, the appreciation is personal.
"I'd like to say thank you to my uncle," Jameriyon said. "He's just joined the Air Force. He's only 21 years old, and I am proud of him. Very proud."
AFRH resident D.C. Breland, another World War II veteran, just received a keepsake from his great-great granddaughter.
"It means so much and especially to see the young kids here who realize that we had people who fought and gave their lives to the country," said Breland.
The Armed Forces Retirement Home Open House pulled out all the stops for the celebration. Helicopters made dramatic entrances, and the campus was filled with military and first responder displays. The keynote speaker was Biloxi native and Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise.
Friday was also the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps. Marine veteran Les Crawshaw helped cut the cake.
"Semper Fi. Semper Fi," Crawshaw said. "Yes, that's what it means to all of us, and I think there's a lot of Marines that will reflect that also."
Navy veteran Diana Dopp is proud of this celebration for many reasons.
"It's patriotism. It's love of country," Dopp said. "Veterans Day to me is all these people that went before me to keep our country free and uphold our constitution and the freedoms we hold so dear."