Serving with honor

Local veterans give a salute during a Veterans Day program at Col. Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home on Monday.

ST. CLAIR COUNTY -- People from across the county thanked local veterans for their service through special breakfasts, lunches and Veterans Day events like the Veterans Celebration held at the Col. Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home. 

“As a veteran, you deserve so much,” Pell City Mayor Bill Pruitt told the veterans during the 1-hour program held in front of the Col. Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home on Monday. 

Pruitt told veterans that he could not properly thank them enough for their sacrifices and service to our country. 

Pruitt also talked about a veteran that the community lost last week, Nicholas Sloan “Boo” Harmon, 20, of Pell City.  Harmon was an airman first class in the 117th Air Refueling Wing of the Alabama Air National Guard in Birmingham.

He said like others in the crowd, Sloan was different. 

“It’s ya’ll. Ya’ll are our heroes,” Pruitt said. “Ya’ll make us want to be better. … You remind us this country is worth fighting for.”

New Hope Baptist Church Pastor Paul Brasher, who gave an invocation and benediction at the program, told the veterans in attendance that they epitomized the “Spirit of Sacrifice.”

Hiliary Hardwick, the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs director for the Col. Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home, welcomed guests who attended the program and encouraged everyone to tell a veteran thank you.

“Thank a veteran for the freedoms we enjoy today,” Hardwick said. 

Malia Thibado sang patriotic songs at the program, including the theme song for each branch of service.

Col. Greg Estes, U.S. Army-retired, was the guest speaker who addressed the large crowd. 

He pointed out that only 1-percent of the entire U.S. population has served in the military. 

Estes said a soldier is a special person, disciplined, who follows lawful orders without question, serving their country with honor. 

He also talked about the difficulties military personnel face when they return home with physical and mental scars.  

Estes served 32 years in the military and served on six combat deployments.  He talked about the veterans who served in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, and in the more recent Mideast wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I think America has always been great,” Estes said. 

Derrick Williams, administrator for the Col. Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home, said the facility is home to 250 veterans, from World War II to the most recent Iraqi and Afghan Wars. 

“The sacrifices that are made are real,” he said. “We salute you.”