published Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Thank you: Chattanooga National Cemetery program honors veterans

Len Gray with the American Legion Post 107 stands amongst a sea of flags during a Veterans Day Program at the Chattanooga National Cemetery on Monday.
Len Gray with the American Legion Post 107 stands amongst a sea of flags during a Veterans Day Program at the Chattanooga National Cemetery on Monday.
Photo by Dan Henry.
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    Rick Simpson hands out flowers to Gold Star Mothers and Gold Star Wives during a Veterans Day Program at the Chattanooga National Cemetery on Monday.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
    enlarge photo

Americans are in debt to veterans for the sacrifices made to secure freedoms, a retired U.S. Navy captain told about 100 people gathered Monday at Chattanooga National Cemetery.

"Our veterans and their families have paid an immense price on our behalf. They, in the course of their duties, have consistently stepped into harm's way to protect, preserve and promote the freedoms we all enjoy," keynote speaker Don Drumm said.

The Veterans Day program was one of a number throughout the region Monday honoring veterans both living and dead.

Heads were bowed in prayer. Hands were placed over hearts. Most of the veteran service members held weathered hands to their heads in salutes throughout the program.

"They have selflessly sacrificed their lives, limbs, health, peace of mind and precious time with their families so that Americans can have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in a world where evil continually threatens our well being," Drumm said.

Jonathan Mallory was perhaps the youngest veteran in attendance at the ceremony.

A head of loose auburn curls adorned Mallory's head. The 23-year-old left the Navy in June 2012.

He noticed he was one of the younger people there.

"I had friends not make it. I came here for them," Mallory said.

The program ended with a 21-gun salute in honor of those who have fallen, followed by the playing of taps.

For many veterans close to Mallory's age, it might be too soon to attend the services, he said.

"It's really emotional. It's very recent," he said. "Of course, I don't speak for everybody."

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.

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