Frederich Johnson, right, a Vietnam veteran, and Woodrow Mullins, an Air Force veteran during the Veterans Day ceremony in Covington Friday. Staff Photo: Crystal Tatum.
COVINGTON - Frederich Johnson knows what real sacrifice is all about. The Army veteran wonders, though, if the general public cares about what he did in Vietnam.
"The public really doesn't understand the meaning of this. I lost my brother over there. I don't think the public understands what we went through to preserve peace," Johnson said as he stood in the November sunshine holding an American flag.
At 11 a.m. Friday morning, approximately 200 veterans, their families, local public safety and elected officials and everyday citizens took time to remember the sacrifice made by Johnson, his brother and millions of other American soldiers at a Veterans Day commemoration ceremony on the Square in downtown Covington.
Hosted by American Legion Post 32, the event included the posting of the colors by Newton High School's MCJROTC Color Guard, music by The Eastside Brass and the laying of a wreath in memory of local soldiers who have died in the line of duty.
The keynote speaker was Master Gunnery Sgt. Rob Robinson, USMC Retired, recipient of five Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars and vice chairman of Department of Georgia American Legion Riders.
Robinson began his address with a list of conflicts and the number of American military personnel that served: the Civil War, more than 2.2 million; World War I, 4.7 million; World War II, more than 16 million; Vietnam, more than 8.7 million; the War on Terror, more than 1 million.
"I share those numbers with you because they seem to be really big, but in reality, they're not big at all," Robinson said, noting that the number of Americans who have served in the military accounts for less than 7 percent of the country's population. "You are a very, very elite group."
There have been 310 conflicts -- an average of 1 a year -- since the nation's founding, he said.
"Where would we be without you veterans?" he asked.
"Next time you're in a crowd of 100 people, see if you can find the seven that served. I bet you can," he continued. "Veterans walk a little taller. They walk a little straighter. You can see the pride in their eyes."
Robinson told the tale of an 84-year-old veteran who recently knocked on his door, his usually weary, tired eyes now lit with excitement. The man had just received the Purple Heart due him, some 60 years late.
"I could see that 84-year-old man with 18-year-old eyes ... That man was my father. We fought for 60 years to get him what he deserved. That pride he has will last a lifetime. That pride that you hold in your hearts will last a lifetime," Robinson said.
"I've never met a veteran, and I've met a lot, that wasn't willing to go right back out there and do it again," he said, to applause and one Marine's loud "Oorah!"