The chilly temperatures and blustery winds did not stop dozens of residents from honoring Coweta County military veterans Saturday morning at Veterans Memorial Park.
Veterans wore hats with their chosen branch of service and proudly displayed pins and medals on their chests during the annual ceremony.
The American flag blew majestically in the background as local and state dignitaries, fellow comrades and family recognized Charles Irvin Kennedy as the 2017 Veteran of the Year.
American Legion Post 57 Commander Tim Smith and Vice Commander Phillip Hillesheim presented Kennedy with a special plaque and thanked him for his service to the country and the community.
“We honor a man who followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, father, brother and brother-in-law by serving in the Army and in the Korean War. He was a leader of men and rose to the rank of Sergeant First Class in less than two years,” said Smith.
A man of few words, Kennedy briefly addressed the audience.
“I am so humbled, appreciative and surprised to receive this award,” Kennedy told the crowd. “I love everyone out here. You all are just so wonderful.”
The Army veteran was born in Heflin, Alabama. As a young boy, Kennedy helped his father build the then-new American Legion building in town. He said it was there that he learned about community service and sacrifice.
Kennedy joined the Army in March, 1952.
He and his unit were deployed to Inchon, Korea, where he spent several days with Chinese troops only about 40 yards away.
Kennedy trained in mountainous terrain where snipers were a danger. He lost many comrades and remembers dealing with icy weather and other challenges.
Kennedy wrote a memoir titled, “Memory of the Korean War.” Both the book and his original Army uniform are on display inside American Legion Post 57.
The Army veteran was also honored earlier in the day as the Grand Marshal of the annual Coweta County Veterans Day parade. He nodded and waved to folks who lined Jackson Street to watch the celebration.
“This is a chance for the rest of us veterans to show we appreciate each other and for the community to know we are here,” explained Hillesheim. “One percent of the United States population has been in the military … so many have returned from war and never heard someone tell them, ‘Thank you for your service.’ The reason I survived 30 years of service (in the Army) is because those veterans trained us.”
Kennedy was also recognized during a special luncheon held after the ceremony at the Coweta Veterans Club.
Thomas Pike, (Ret. Air Force) and Terry Daviston, (Ret. Army) were both honored during the ceremony at Veterans Memorial Plaza. The men were presented with quilts from Coweta County Quilts of Valor.
Across the county in Grantville, Steven “Smitty” Smith was awarded a plaque as the city’s Veteran of the Year during the city’s annual ceremony.
More photos from the Newnan and Grantville Veterans Day parades can be found on page 3A.