Military News

Veterans at annual parade share hopes, concerns for America and military

Vietnamese veterans walk in the Veterans Day parade in D'Iberville on Saturday, November 12, 2016.
Vietnamese veterans walk in the Veterans Day parade in D'Iberville on Saturday, November 12, 2016. amccoy@sunherald.com

For some along the route in D’Iberville, the annual Gulf Coast Veterans Parade was a family affair.

Kenneth Lamey, an 87-year-old Army veteran who served 36 years in the military, watched the parade from his wheelchair. Next to him was his son, Mark Lamey, who served in the Army and Air Force.

Lamey’s family has a long history of military service going back to World War I.

The family comes out every year for the parade.

“It’s uplifting to the military, especially the aging military,” Lamey said. “It’s one of the things that brings us all a little closer together.”

Hundreds wrapped in red, white and blue attire lined the streets Saturday to watch the parade.

The day marked a time to honor veterans who served during wartime and peacetime, and Coast veterans from various conflicts and branches attended the event.

The day also proved to be an opportunity for Americans to come together in honor of something bigger than themselves after a divisive presidential election.

Vietnam War veteran Andrew Griffin and his wife, Pam, came from Poplarville. The two recently moved to Mississippi from Washington. Paying tribute to veterans is a tradition for them. They just needed to find a place to go this year, Andrew Griffin said.

“One of the things about being a veteran is you live with a pride the rest of your life. It’s a piece of your life that can’t be taken away,” he said.

He said if he could change one thing, he’d help veterans find jobs as they transition from active duty to civilian life.

“That’s one of the things that was tough after Vietnam, finding work,” he said. “It’s like that after every war. Jobs, jobs, jobs. That’s what is a big concern to guys like me.”

Retired Marine John Hartsell of Woolmarket served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was a heavy equipment engineer and later a combat engineer.

“It’s good to see the community get along, but there’s a long ways to go to truly appreciate veterans,” he said.

He, too, said it can be difficult for veterans to find work and said big changes need to take place at the Department of Veterans Affairs. He said he was hopeful that might be done with the recent change in the political process.

“The VA. That’s the biggest issue we face,” he said. “There’s a feeling among veterans that many don’t understand the overall mentality of what it’s like to pay the ultimate price, or to have gone through what we have.”

Luke Cook, a retired Coast Guard machinery technician chief, served during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

He was transferred to a post in New Orleans five days before the storm hit the city.

Now he undergoes counseling to deal with some of the things he saw.

“I’ve been saving lives since 1960,” Cook said. “I’ve been to Haiti and to Cuba. I’ve seen some bad stuff. But nothing compares to Katrina. It was a war zone.”

Cook’s job was to equip units coming in and out of the city with supplies, but with limited supplies and a massive disaster area, Cook also helped rescue residents. Since it was on U.S. soil, the devastation was more close to home, he said.

“I took it personal,” Cook said. “I remember flying over the homes. The expressions on their faces. I have to live with that.”

He said he finds a temporary comfort in Saturday’s parade.

“This lets me know what I went through,” he said. “You can’t forget what you went through. It’s something that takes time to deal with.

Cook said he believes the large turnout for the parade symbolized a healing point for Americans after a contentious presidential election.

“Here you can be Republican, Democrat, whatever,” he said. “It doesn’t make much difference. No one’s looking at that. We’re looking at something bigger than ourselves.”

Justin Vicory: 228-896-2326, @justinvicory

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