South Georgians remember military veterans - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South Georgians remember military veterans

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May 28, 2006

Andersonville--With Memorial Day just one day away, many people are already honoring the men and women in uniform who serve and protect our country.

The Fort Benning Infantry Center Band serenaded a crowd of nearly 200 people during a memorial service at the Andersonville National Historic Park.

The event recognized the sacrifice and hard work of our nation's troops, past and present. Wreaths honored many patriotic and civic organizations. The event also paid tribute to the men and women currently fighting over seas.

Special guest speaker, Lt. Colonel Harry McCorkle, with the 48th Brigade, spoke about the positive changes his troops are making in Iraq.

"I can tell you from first hand experience that we are making deliberate and steady progress each and every day toward that goal. It has not been easy," he says.

The battalion commander paid his respects to one of the fallen soldiers from the 48th Brigade, Sgt. First Class, Victor Anderson. The Sumter County native served under McCorkle's command. Anderson was killed by a roadside bomb in July.

The park's memorial service gave many veterans a chance to reflect back on their service in the military.

Channel 10 spoke with several veterans who say while they enjoyed serving their country, doing so wasn't always easy.

85-year-old Charles McGhee wears his veteran's uniform with pride.

 "I enjoyed my service," he says. McGhee served as a major in the Airforce during World War II.

"I flew B-17's out of Italy," he says. A job he loved, until he became the target of enemy fire.

"He shot out two of the engines. One of them wouldn't feather. In other words, I couldn't get one of them stopped," he says.

Like many soldiers, McGee served time as a prisoner of war. An experience, he wishes he could forget. 

"We were hungry. There were a few instances of people being shot," he says.

McGee isn't the only veteran with bad memories of war time.

"I was scared. I didn't expect to come home. I didn't expect to come home. I was surprised that I did," says Reggie Dawson.  The Michigan native fought in Vietnam, a war he describes as pure "chaos."

"The rockets, the mortars. It's scary. You don't know where they're coming from or where they're going to land or what's going on," he says.

Dawson served as a traffic controller in the U-S Army.  "We operated the towers for the few hundred airplanes, things like that, and helicopters," he says.

While Memorial Day tends to bring back a few unwanted memories for many veterans, both McGhee and Dawson say it's a holiday that should always be remembered.

"It can't be forgotten. It's got to continue," says Dawson.  So that we never forget the many troops who died fighting for our freedom.

American flags line the front grave stones of many of our country's fallen soldiers at the park's national cemetery.

About 18,000 troops are buried at the Andersonville National Historic Site. More than half of the soldiers buried are Union troops from the Civil War.  Some of the graves belong to soldiers who fought in the American Revolutionary War. The flags will remain by the grave stones until Tuesday morning.

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