Biloxi Ceremony Salutes Veterans

American Legion Post 33 organizes a Veterans Day ceremony every year. This year was no different in that respect.

But world circumstances and the involvement of American troops in the war against terrorism made Monday's event much different than in years past.

The ceremony at the Biloxi small craft harbor was a reminder about the unique challenges America's military faces in defending freedom against a shadowy figure called "terrorism".

The mood is always somewhat somber and reflective. But keynote speaker, General Ted Mercer, made it clear: this was no ordinary Veterans Day ceremony. For all Americans, and perhaps especially those in uniform, September 11th changed the world.

The annual observance honors all who put on the uniform of America's armed forces. But events on the world stage set this ceremony apart.

"There's no doubt that the events of September 11th are still close to our hearts. As we continue to mourn for our fallen heroes and their families. There's also no doubt many here are praying for loved ones who have been called to active duty or deployed to countries around the globe," said General Ted Mercer.

Jim Caire knows all about the price of protecting freedom around the globe. He survived the infamous Battan Death March of World War Two.

"I think it's a great honor to serve your country. Because, if you don't think that, then why do you stay here?"

The ceremony included laying wreaths at a monument marking the sacrifice of those soldiers who never made it home.

General Mercer spoke of the brotherhood that exists between all who wear the uniform.

"Each has pledged his life and entrusted his safety to the other. All have forged a sacred bond that will last a lifetime. A bond that none can understand, except those that share it."

Wildon Olier knows about that bond, as do several generations of his family. Grandchildren are now taking the place of their elders on the front lines of defending freedom.

"There's a lot of these members who are dying off. You know we're losing like a thousand a month. That's a lot of veterans. And we have to have somebody to take up the slack," said Olier.

General Mercer urged those attending to remember the sacrifice of those in uniform.

"On this Veterans Day, it's right to pray for our troops who have been sent into battle and for those veterans who went before them."