'We say thank you'
City honors veterans at Covington ceremony

COVINGTON - Veterans were remembered and honored at a ceremony held Tuesday in downtown Covington.

American Legion Post 32 hosted the event in commemoration of Veterans Day.

Roger Tingler, a Vietnam-era veteran, member of the American Legion National Legislative Commission and former National Vice Chairman of the American Legion, was the keynote speaker.

"We say thank you when a store clerk hands us a receipt, we wave thank you when a motorist yields the right of way, we say thank you when a friend pays us a compliment," Tingler said. "If you think about it, in some variation we say thank you about a dozen times a day. But how do you thank someone for saving the world? ... We owe them a debt than can never be repaid."

Though not all veterans have seen wars, they all share the common bond of being willing to risk their lives for their country, he said.

Tingler encouraged the crowd to pay thanks in deeds as well as words by supporting the American Legion Scholarship Fund to benefit children whose parents are killed in the line of duty and helping families of troops currently deployed.

Lura Whitaker of the American Legion Women's Auxiliary, also spoke, reading a letter from Staff Sgt. Bryce Ulmer of the 116th Air Control Wing Allied Expeditionary Force serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Ulmer was scheduled to appear at a recent Veterans Day celebration at West Newton Elementary School but was called to duty before the event took place.

"Every day that I am in uniform and on the front lines, I reflect on the honorable men and women who came before me. I am truly grateful to serve because of what you did with your lives that allowed me to be here and continue that service," Ulmer stated.

His letter ended: "I would salute you in person if I could, but since I am on duty in the desert, please know that I respect you and am with you in spirit today on this celebration of Veterans Day. May God richly bless you and God bless America."

American Legion Commander Bobby Hamby said there has been some confusion over the meaning behind Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is to honor veterans who have died, while Veterans Day honors all veterans, living and dead, he said.

"November 11 is a day to let our veterans know how much we appreciate all the sacrifices they have made to keep our country free," Hamby said.

The ceremony also included the posting of the colors by the Newton High School Marine Corps Junior ROTC; the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America" by Johanna Horstmann with First Baptist Church of Covington; and the laying of a wreath in memory of dead veterans.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: Donations sought to help throw party for National Guard

COVINGTON - This Christmas will be the last one soldiers based at the Covington National Guard Armory will spend at home for quite some time, and members of the armory's Family Readiness Group are asking the community to help make it one to remember.

More than 130 soldiers with Company B 1-121st Infantry of the National Guard's 48th Brigade will be deployed to Afghanistan in the summer for a one-year tour of duty. The soldiers are expected to begin deployment training in January.

They will be honored as hometown heroes, marching in the Covington-Newton County Christmas Parade on Dec. 6. After the parade, the soldiers and their families will be treated to a Christmas party at the armory.

"We wanted to make it really, really special this year because the guys won't be home next Christmas," Family Readiness Coordinator Kim Schroeder said.

The Family Readiness Group is asking for monetary donations from the community to offset the cost of the party, including entertainment and gifts for soldiers and their families.

Anyone who would like to contribute should make checks payable to Family Readiness Group and send them to Schroeder's attention at 2009 Gladys Court, Conyers, GA 30094. For more information, call Schroeder at 770-262-0265.