Monday will be a day of reflection for the city of Lebanon and Wilson County as they host a Veterans Day program at 11 a.m., at the Veteran's Plaza on 304 E. Main St. in Lebanon.
American Legion Post 15 sponsors the event, with assistance from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5015, the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1004 and the city of Lebanon.
"I think this is an opportunity for the community's veterans, nonveterans and families to come together in honor of those who served their country no matter the consequences," Veterans Day Committee Chair Jim Harding, who is also a Vietnam veteran, said. "For some people, that was a time commitment, and others made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives. This is about honoring every one of them."
Lebanon Special School District Director Scott Benson, a Gulf War veteran who served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves and participated in Operation Desert Storm, is the program speaker.
"I was quite surprised to get that call," Benson said. "My first thought was that I'm not worthy to be the speaker, and it was quite humbling. I've been to the program for many years and used
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to take my son, who's 25 now."
Benson made a habit of taking his son to the program because he wanted him to have a respect for those who served in the military, and he hopes the event allows the rest of the community to feel the same way.
"It really means a lot to me, and it's a pretty big deal that we have this celebration," he said. "For one thing, it's significant for us as Americans to show our gratitude for veterans, the role they play and the sacrifices made."
To reach that goal, committee begins planning the program in advance each year. Much of that time is spent lining up speakers and coordinating with organizations like school marching bands.
"We've already started putting the committee together for next year," American Legion Post 15 Commander Pete Norman, who served as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot, said. "It's a constant tweaking, because you don't want to leave anybody out that's wanting to participate. This year we're bringing in a military band to dedicate a monument at Cumberland University at 8 a.m., and we're expecting some 300 people in the parade this year."
The parade is another major part of the program, beginning at 10 a.m. at the Lebanon/Wilson County Library and ending at the Veteran's Plaza.
Lt. Col Jim Henderson and his wife Beverly will serve as parade marshals to lead a group of local school bands and marching units. Parade attendees will also see a flyover consisting of six Russian and Chinese fighter aircraft from World War II.
"With grand marshals, we're looking for people who have been there and done that," Norman said. "They've given more than the average person when it comes to their service as veterans."
Henderson served for more than 34 years in the U.S. Air Force and is currently president of the Military Officers Association of Tennessee. He and his wife, a retired social worker and counselor, have been married for 55 years.
The committee looks for similar traits in its program speakers, with an emphasis on advocacy for veterans in their post-military careers.
"Having events like these, it's a lot different than when I came back from Vietnam," Harding said. "It wasn't that anyone was being negative, but it was quiet -- like you hadn't been anywhere at all. A lot of times, people don't know how to address some of the mental health issues that go along with military service either, but I think this country has come a long way with showing support for its veterans."
For those who have served, the event is also a way to reconnect with those they met along the way, and to share their stories with the community.
"Our lives intertwine continuously," Norman said. "You make friendships in the military that people find hard to understand if you've never been there. With this event, we really want people to come out and celebrate Veterans Day. A lot of the banks are closed and everything, but don't just take it a day off -- take a few minutes to reflect."