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Veterans Day ceremony Saturday
5 Veterans Day pic
Formal ceremonies for Dawsonvilles Veterans Day celebration begin at 1:45 p.m. Saturday at Dawson County Middle School. The parade follows at 3 p.m. - photo by File photo

Capt. Benny Thomas Stowers had been overseas less than six months when the plane he was piloting crashed in May 1966.

"They notified us about the very next day, but it took a week or so before we got his body, because they couldn't find him," said his wife, Hazel Stowers.

A native of Dawson County and its only Vietnam casualty, Stowers was killed in Okinawa along with 10 others in the crash presumably caused by an oncoming monsoon.

"At first they didn't include his name on the Vietnam Memorial because he wasn't killed in the war zone," said son Reggie Stowers. "A few years later, they did add his name and we were invited to Washington for the ceremony."

A ceremony and parade Saturday will honor veterans of all ages and each military branch as part of Dawsonville's eighth annual Veterans Day celebration.

Formal ceremonies will begin at 1:45 p.m. in the gym at Dawson County Middle School, followed by a parade through downtown Dawsonville that begins at 3 p.m.

"The public is invited to line the streets in downtown Dawsonville with ‘welcome home' signs and show support for our veterans and active military," said Pam Hamalainen with Dawson County Veterans Affairs.

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 veterans of the conflict, who will serve as the event's grand marshals.

"We all know the terrible treatment they received when they landed on American soil," Hamalainen said. "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."

To commemorate the initial withdrawal of troops from Vietnam 40 years ago, there are also plans for Huey flyovers during the parade.

Wayne Watkins, president of Vietnam Veterans of American Chapter 970, said the sound of the Huey is one "no Vietnam veterans will ever forget."

"It would put us in harm's way and would be there to take us to safety, as well. It was our lifeline," he said.

Dawsonville is one of just two cities in Georgia designated as a 2012 Veterans Day Regional Site by the Veterans Day National Committee. The other is Atlanta.

Capt. Larry Freeland is scheduled to serve as master of ceremonies, while the event's keynote speaker will be retired Lt. Col. Nancy J. Jurgevich, current president of the Woman's Vietnam Veterans Organization.

"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."

There will also be a tribute to honor the 2012 Veteran of the Year during the ceremony.

Before the festivities, veterans and their families are invited to a private luncheon. The banquet is set for 12:15 p.m. in the middle school's cafeteria.

For more on Veteran's Day in Dawson County, pick up the latest print edition of the Dawson Community News.