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Parade, program honors Dawson veterans
Don Brown named Veteran of the Year
I-Veterans Day pic3
Attendees of the 12th annual Veterans Day celebration on Nov. 11 waved flags as Kevin Woody, the Dawson County Junior High chorus director, sang Proud to be an American. The program was followed by a parade through the streets of downtown Dawsonville. - photo by Allie Dean Dawson County News

Friday marked Dawsonville's 12th annual Veteran's Day celebration.

A free lunch was held at Dawson County Junior High school on Nov. 11for all veterans and their families, followed by a program and parade.

At the beginning of the program, a recorded message from actor Gary Sinise, popularly known for his role as Lieutenant Dan in the film Forrest Gump, was played to the gathered audience.

"To all of the veterans in Dawson County and north Georgia: Your selfless service is an inspiration to me," Sinise said. "It is because of you, all the military men and women who have come before you and those who will serve in the future that I launched the Gary Sinise Foundation. The establishment of the foundation has enabled me to support my personal mission of honoring and serving those who defend our nation on a much greater scale. The Veteran's Affairs of Dawson County has put together a program to celebrate your service and I hope you enjoy the camaraderie shared while we honor you."

During the program, veterans from each of America's wars since World War II were honored: Veterans from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the War on Terror, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. Veterans from conflicts dating back to the American Revolution were remembered.

"Since 9/11, over 52,000 have been wounded in combat and nearly 7,000 have made the ultimate sacrifice," said Don Brown, president of the Veterans Affairs of Dawson County. "They are still paying for the freedom, liberty and opportunity that we cherish. Let us reflect today on those that have borne the battle, and on their families."

Brown was recognized at the program as the 2016 Veteran of the Year.

Brown is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College and retired from the United Staes Army Reserve in 1999 after 32 years of uniformed service. He began his career as an enlisted soldier and was later commissioned and retired with the rank of full colonel.

His last assignment was the G4 for the 335th Signal Command. He also currently serves as the secretary for the Vietnam Veterans of America chapter 970.

"It's an honor to get this and a surprise, but I'm accepting it," Brown said. "I'm accepting it on behalf of our 32 members of the Veterans Affairs of Dawson County who worked so diligently and so hard to put this on and the other two events we do this year: they have done a tremendous job in raising money for the new statue that we will be adding to Veterans Memorial Park next year."

Several Dawson County Schools were represented at the program and provided entertainment for the veterans. Brown introduced the performers with a message about the importance of youth in preserving the memory of America's veterans.

"Our nation stands in the hands of our youth, from the scouts who presented our colors to the young people who can wave our flag to the talented students you will see perform today," Brown said. "In 1960 most Americans were related to or knew a veteran. Now, unfortunately, most Americans don't even know a veteran."

A recorded video of the Robinson Elementary chorus showed students singing "You're a grand old flag."

Students from the Dawson County Junior High chorus performed songs, including "American the Beautiful."

Three junior high students, Brea Crane, Carly Lamb and Lane McCarthy, performed a rendition of the Andrew Sisters dance routine, and drama students performed a skit.

The Dawson County High School Band had planned on performing Taps during the program, but due to a loss of one of their own last week, the students were not able to perform.

Junior high chorus director Kevin Woody sang "Proud to be an American" and Vietnam veteran Sam Sweazey sang multiple songs to the crowd of gathered veterans and community members.

A parade followed the program at 3:30 p.m., and participants went from the junior high on Hwy. 9 and turned on Hwy. 53. Participating in the flag was Grand Marshal Loy Rouse, the Veteran's Affairs of Dawson County, Boy Scout Troop 422, local cub scouts, the Georgia Army National Guard, Vietnam Veterans chapter 970, Moohan Martial Arts of Dawsonville and others.

Community members lined the streets with flags in hand, despite the dense smoke in the air, to pay their respects to the veterans.