Post-Vietnam veterans honored at Muster eventBy ALEX MCRAE
Even the wind cooperated Saturday morning, enabling a parachutist carrying a 15-foot long American flag to land right on target to open the day’s events at Veterans Muster 2012.
Saturday’s activities opened with remarks from Maj. Gen. Joe Brooks (US Army ret), a member of the Coweta Commission on Veterans Affairs (CVA), which organizes and promotes the event. This was the third Veterans Muster to be presented by the CVA.
As soon as a member of the Patriot Airborne Demonstration Team carrying the American flag was visible high above, everyone looked up to watch as the parachutist — trailing smoke from his rig to increase visibility — circled above the Coweta County Fairgrounds and made a perfect landing. A second member of the team followed, carrying the POW-MIA flag.
After the massive American flag was secured, Northgate High School Air Force ROTC cadets held it aloft while a crowd ranging from grizzled World War II vets to children sang the National Anthem and recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
After thanking everyone for their attendance and support, CVA official invited all present to spend some time enjoying the large display of military vehicles, weapons and equipment on hand. Visitors were also urged to strap in and take a paid ride on either a UH-1 Huey helicopter or AH-F Cobra helicopter. As the day wore one, the choppers were rarely on the grounds as people lined up to ride. A CVA official said that, by 2 p.m., more than 130 passengers had ridden in the Huey.
(To view photos from this event, please visit http://photos.times-herald.com/mycapture and click on Events / Newnan.)
The morning activities began with drill team displays, including JROTC cadets representing Newnan, Northgate and East Coweta high schools.
The morning’s activities also included the presentation of a $2,500 gift to Habitat for Humanity of Coweta by representatives of the local VFW, American Legion and Marine Corps League organizations.
The Coweta County Republican Women’s Club was also on hand to ask citizens to donate personal items, including soap, toilet articles and wet wipes, that the club is collecting to send to soldiers currently serving overseas.
Part of Saturday’s Muster program was the fall Student-Vet Connect program presented by the Newnan High School history department. The Student-Vet Connect program is a natural outgrowth of classes on the Vietnam War and World War II taught by Steve Quesinberry and Frank Henderson.
Those classes feature visits from dozens of veterans who served in past wars. The Student-Vet Connect programs — in which large crows of veterans gather to talk to students and answer their questions —began several years ago.
Veterans, students and visitors were in abundance Saturday, all eager to look at uniforms, weapons, grenades and countless other items displayed by veterans of military actions, including World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Veterans were also on hand from the period being recognized this year, generally described as the “War on Terrorism,” and including veterans who served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Desert Shield, Desert Storm,
For one of the veterans talking to students and visitors, this fall’s muster could not have been more personal. James Whitlock had more than a passing interest in attending Saturday’s muster.
He served seven years active duty in the U.S. Army, including 18 months in Iraq, and survived his tours in combat zones only to see his brother, Nick Whitlock, lose his life last February when a plane he was piloting back from a special operations mission in Afghanistan crashed near his base in Djibouti, Africa.
I lost a lot of friends and thought I knew what it was like,” he said. “But losing a brother is something really different. He was a great guy. It’s been hard, but I know we’re going to get through it, and all the support from the community has been great. “