Thank you for your service: Sumter salutes vets during annual ceremony


Throughout the country on Saturday, Americans honored a small portion of the population - less than 1 percent - who have arguably made the greatest sacrifice of anyone.

Coinciding with its slogan of "Uncommon Patriotism," Sumter's Veterans Day ceremony started at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in recognition of Armistice Day, which marked the end of World War I.

The crowd that gathered at the old courthouse on Main Street was addressed by guest speaker Lt. Gen. Michael Garrett, commanding general of U.S. Army Central and Coalition Forces Land Component Command, who thanked his fellow service members for their selfless service.

Their service and sacrifices made this country what it is today, he said, keeping the faith and keeping us free.

During his speech, Garrett also thanked the families of military service members and those veterans who were not able to attend the celebration.

A POW/MIA flag was displayed in front of the crowd. An empty chair was left in front of the flag representing the service members who never made it back home.

This country has always been exceptional because of the generations of people who don the uniform, he said.

This indispensable nation is the land of the free, home of the brave and beacon of hope in an often-troubled world, Garrett said. The lines of Americans willing to risk their lives for this country is long and never ending.

You have served in different places and in different ways, yet serve you have, he said.

Garrett said veterans are much more than gunslingers. Even after leaving the ranks, veterans continue to serve their country, becoming doctors, teachers, lawyers, etc., he said.

Veterans are superb citizens who take their civic responsibility seriously, he said.

After Garrett's speech, Sumter County Veterans Affairs Office recognized some of Sumter's veterans by giving them medals thanking them for their service. Among those recognized were two World War II Army veterans, Dargan Hodge and Harry C. McLeod.

Another depiction of Sumter's "Uncommon Patriotism" was seen during the Veterans Day parade held before the ceremony, in which hundreds of residents lined Main Street and walked down the street to show their appreciation for local veterans.

After the ceremony, a few people walked against the crowd just for the opportunity to shake hands with veterans, who are some of the last of their generation.