Local veterans and their families gathered at Morgan County High School Thursday morning for the annual Veterans Day ceremony, honoring the sacrifice of servicemen and servicewomen.

The event paid homage to both past and present veterans, from every division of the armed services, including the Army, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy. The community celebrated local veterans for their bravery, sacrifice and unyielding patriotism.

The MCHS Band played military classics, the MCHS chorus members sang the national anthem in three-part harmony, and various veterans carried flags honoring every branch of the American armed forces.

Jim NeSmith, commander of Post #37 of the American Legion, led the event. “May God Bless America and God Bless our Veterans,” he told the crowd. NeSmith encouraged the crowd to recognize not only the sacrifice of veterans, but the sacrifices made by their families as well.

“The sacrifices are made by veterans and their families,” said NeSmith.

This year’s keynote speaker was Dillon Bowers, a graduate of Morgan County High School and accomplished veteran. Bowers graduated from Morgan County High School and later The University of North Georgia in Dahlonega in 2010.

Bowers served as a senior non-commissioned officer with the 7th Special Forces Group located at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., before serving as a Green Beret. He is now an ambassador to New York for the Green Beret Foundation.

Bowers spoke to the crowd about leadership.

“It’s not easy to define, but you know it when you see it,” said Bowers.

Bowers believes true leadership is getting out in front to take the brunt of risk and sacrifice.

“Leadership is not sitting in your tent while your men bleed and die on the battlefield,” said Bowers.

Bowers encouraged the audience to find ways to lead in the world, even if it’s not in the armed forces.

“You won’t find it on Facebook or Instagram, in these places that don’t really exist...Hold yourself to these standards if you dare,” said Bowers, who urged the audience to take care of one another in their everyday lives. “I promise you this, I swear on my life...Each other is all you are really going to have.”

State Representative Dave Belton, who is also an Air Force veteran, also spoke at the event, praising the United States for its history of “peace through strength.”

“The United States of America has been the greatest guarantee of peace the world has ever known,” said Belton.

Every year, Morgan County High School opens its doors and welcomes veterans and their families as students, teachers, and guest speakers to pay homage to their brave service and sacrifice for the good of the country.

According to organizer Jim NeSmith, the Veterans Day ceremony has been held at the high school for about 12 years. Before then, it was held in front of the courthouse, but the school system wanted to take an active role in hosting the event, seizing it as an opportunity to educate students about military service in addition to showing their gratitude to our local veterans.

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