Wilson County celebrated Veterans Day fully Monday, with a parade, ceremony and groundbreaking for the new Veterans Park and Museum.
The ceremony, which took place immediately after the parade at 11 a.m. at the courthouse, featured numerous veterans from all wars and branches of the military speaking to a crowd of hundreds.
Lt. Col. Jim Henderson organized the festivities and served as master of ceremonies.
The American Legion Post 15 Chaplain, Col. John Lloyd, led the invocation after Henderson’s welcome and was followed by the posting of the colors and singing of the National Anthem by Cindy Goad and the Watertown High School band.
Glenola Riker, chair of the Gold Star Mothers, then gave a brief speech in honor of her son, who was a Marine killed in 1969.
“I’m very, very proud of him,” Riker said. “There’s 13 Gold Star Mothers in Wilson County, and I hope we all say prayers for them.”
In recognition of all veterans, the Lebanon High School band then played the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy and Marines service songs. Veterans stood as they heard their songs played and were greeted with heavy applause from everyone in attendance.
Commander of Post 15 Don Fox said he wanted to make sure that people remembered all veterans and he especially wanted to salute the veterans of the Cold War.
“If we had a song to play for them today I guess it’d be ‘God Bless America’,” Fox said.
Henderson then went on to introduce the co-grand marshals for the parade, Capt., Dr. H. Bert Coble and Pvt. 1st Class Paul Curtis.
Curtis served with General Patton’s 3rd army, 328th Regiment in World War II. Henderson said Curtis was a prisoner of war of the Germans for a long time and was in campaigns in Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe. He earned three Battle Stars, Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
Curtis resides in Commerce and said he will turn 95 years old in December.
Henderson then gave the ceremony over to Coble, who served as the events guest speaker.
Coble is a combat veteran of the Korean War and WWII. He served in the 185th and 31st infantry regiments in WWII and with the 3rd division, 7th infantry in Korea as a tank commander. Coble has received a Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart and two Presidential Unit citations.
Coble has also had successful careers as an enlisted soldier, Army officer, State Defense Force, college professor, music minister and holds academic doctorate and seminary degrees.
Coble then spoke to the crowd of veterans, children, adults and community leaders on his experiences serving.
Coble said he served for nine months in Korea on occupation duty then volunteered to go back where he spent 11 more months during the early years of the 1950s.
“We’d see temperatures at 40 degrees below zero in the winter and then in the summer it’d be hotter than blue blazes,” Coble said.
In speaking of his experiences, Coble said a lot of what happened “wasn’t decent to tell in mixed company.”
Coble then said he knew one thing for sure.
“We’re citizens of the greatest country on earth,” Coble said. “It’s our duty to serve when we’re called and it’s our duty to serve sometimes when we’re not called. If you have traveled or been around the world you can really see what God has blessed with us.”
Coble said during his time serving he remembers praying to God to let him return home.
“I said I’d do anything God wanted me to do if he’d just let me go home,” Coble said.
When he returned home, Coble said he realized he had no idea what to do. Coble said he called his preacher at 2 a.m. for guidance, where he then asked him to fill-in in the pulpit for him while he was away for two weeks.
Though Coble said preaching didn’t work out for him, a position as a music minister opened.
“I knew the first night I stood in front of the choir that was what I was supposed to be doing and what God wanted me to do,” Coble said. “If you search for God, he’ll answer you.”
After Coble’s speech the ceremony was capped off by the laying of a wreath on the veterans monument, followed by a 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps.”
Mt. Juliet Christian Academy also honored veterans Monday with a program featuring country singer Darryl Worley.
Worley was on hand paying tribute for Veterans Day and sang his hit song, “Have You Forgotten.”