Gautier Teens Honor Veterans For Service & Sacrifice

Gautier High School's sixth annual Veteran's Day Breakfast is usually held in November. Because of Katrina, the date was pushed back to April.

"We weren't going to let the storm keep us from doing this. It took us awhile," Susie Bounds said.

By 8am Thursday morning, the Gautier High School Cafeteria was filled with hundreds of men and women who all served our country. Every year... the school puts on a touching program to say "thanks." This year, Governor Haley Barbour was the keynote speaker.

"You're in the presence of real genuine heroes," Barbour told the crowd. "All of our freedoms we get from soldiers."

But the most exhilarating part of the celebration came as the veterans entered the school's gym. Students and teachers chanted, "USA!"

Veteran Rodney Wilkinson said, "It's louder this year than it was last year."

The chanting and waving of flags puts smiles on many of the veterans' faces. David Parnell especially enjoyed the warm welcome.

"Excited, humbled. I don't know any other words to describe it. Wonderful," Parnell said.

A hush fell over the crowd as "Taps" was played to honor the many soldiers who gave their all in combat and never returned.

Even though the veterans appreciate being thanked for their service, attending a program like this also gives them the opportunity to see that American pride isn't a thing of the past.

"I'll tell you, people don't know it, but we've got a fine bunch of people coming up that's going to carry on the banner," James Gautier said.

Gautier is a former POW. Thursday, he received a replica of all of his medals from his years in the service. Gautier had lost all of the originals in Hurricane Katrina.