Looking back, some U.S. veterans say that deciding to serve in the military was a tough but defining decision in their lives.
For others, it was the only choice they could imagine.
“There’s just something about being where the action is and being with the soldiers,” said retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Steven Arnold of Dawson County.
“That’s why I joined the Army, and I’ve loved that career, and I’ve loved America.”
As Veterans Day draws near, men like Arnold, 70, are thankful for the recognition they receive every year on Nov. 11.
“I’ll tell you what makes Veterans Day a very special day, especially for people of my vintage ... it’s seeing the way soldiers of all services are treated by the American people today, with great respect. It is a special feeling.”
If anybody should know, it’s Arnold. His 40-year military career spanned the globe and included stops in Vietnam, Saudi Arabia and Somalia. He served as the commanding general for the Third U.S. Army.
Arnold said many soldiers today have endured a long journey.
“What our soldiers are going through today is amazing. They’ve been going in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan for eight years now,” said Arnold, a 1962 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy.
“Many of them have three and four tours on the ground over there. These kids are going through a lot, and you’ve got to love them. That’s why we have Veterans Day.”
Local Vietnam Veterans of America President Wayne Watkins agreed.
“It’s a great feeling for veterans,” Watkins said. “It’s hard to describe with words. It makes you feel really appreciated.”
An Illinois native, Arnold said he enjoys living in Dawson County.
“It’s a beautiful part of America,” he said.
The sixth annual Dawson County Veterans Day Celebration is scheduled for Nov. 11.
The event begins with a formal ceremony at 3 p.m., followed by a downtown parade at 4 p.m.
The 2010 event marks the fourth consecutive year the local parade has been recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a Veterans Day Official Site.
It’s one of 58 other sites in the country. Georgia’s only other site is in Atlanta.