Editor's note: The Dawson Community News is accepting "Welcome Home" letters to be published as part of a series leading up to the Veterans Day celebration in November. The paper will also publish submitted photos and stories from the era. Letters and photos can be mailed to P.O. Box 1600 Dawsonville, GA 30534, dropped off at the office at 76 Howard Ave. E. Suite 140, Dawsonville or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the sixth consecutive year, Dawsonville is one of only two regional Veterans Day sites in the state for 2012.
Pam Hamalainen, president of the Veterans Affairs Committee of Dawson County, received the news last week from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
"It is a continuous healing process for all of our veterans to know that each year, our community will be there to honor and support them, she said. "We have heard their stories, at least those that are willing to speak about their service and sacrifice. The least we can do is let them know that they are all heroes and we thank them for serving our beloved country."
In order to be recognized as an official Veterans Day site, an application must be filed with the Veterans Day National Committee. The committee then investigates to ensure that the applying organization is working to honor veterans and active military personnel.
Atlanta and Dawsonville are the only two sites in Georgia to receive the recognition.
For the county's inaugural Veterans Day event in 2004, there was little participation from veterans.
"It was as though they weren't sure what to expect. Now, eight years later, we have grown so large that we actually had almost 700 participate in our parade, banquet and formal ceremony," Hamalainen said. "We've proven to our veterans and active military that our only goal is to show them the respect that each and every veteran has earned serving our country."
This year's celebration will be held Nov. 10 in downtown Dawsonville and is expected to offer a full day of activities in honor of local veterans and active military personnel.
In honor of the 40th anniversary of the United States beginning the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam, the festivities will include a special recognition for Vietnam veterans, who will serve as the event's grand marshals.
"We all know the terrible treatment they received when they landed on American soil. Protesters cursed them, spit on them and threw rotten tomatoes at them. This year, we are going to give our Vietnam Veterans the ‘Welcome Home' that they never received," Hamalainen said.
There will also be Huey helicopter rides at $50 each, as well as a static display by the Sky Soldiers Demonstration Team out of Hampton.
The day's events also include a parade through downtown Dawsonville and a formal ceremony at Dawson County Middle School, with Vietnam Veteran Retired U.S. Army LTC Nancy J. Jurgevich, president of the Women's Vietnam Veterans, as keynote speaker.
"We will concentrate most of our efforts on our Vietnam Veterans but of course, we are going to honor all our veterans and active military," Hamalainen said. "We all must get involved and show support by attending the formal ceremony and then line the streets and cheer as our heroes pass by in the parade."
The Veterans Affairs Committee is also accepting nominations for the 2012 Dawson County Veteran of the Year, who will be announced during the formal ceremony at Dawson County Middle School.
Additionally, the Dawson Community News is accepting "Welcome Home" letters to be printed in the paper leading up to the November Veterans Day celebration.
"We encourage the community to join us in honoring our Vietnam veterans with letters of gratitude for their service," said Stephanie Griffin, editor of the Dawson Community News.