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Veterans honored
Late volunteer recognized for strong support
3 Veterans Day pic1
Dawsonville paid tribute to military personnel Friday during its Veterans Day celebration. The seventh annual event began with a formal ceremony at Dawson County Middle School, followed by a parade. - photo by Michele Hester Dawson Community News

A crowd of hundreds lined the streets of downtown Dawsonville on Friday afternoon to pay tribute to veterans of all ages.

Held on the 11th day of the 11th month in the 11th year, the seventh annual Veterans Day celebration began with a formal ceremony at Dawson County Middle School, followed by a parade.

"It never ceases to amaze me how this community comes out for our veterans," said Pam Hamalainen, president of the Veterans Affairs of Dawson County, which organizes the annual salute.

"It means so much to our veterans whenever they see people lining the streets to say thank you. I'm so proud of Dawson County."

As keynote speaker, Col. James "Lindy" Linder said Dawsonville reminded him of his hometown in Minnesota.

"There were about 400 people that lived there and they respected their veterans and so do you," he told those in attendance.

Designated as a 2011 Veterans Day Regional Site by the Veterans Day National Committee, Dawsonville is one of just two places in Georgia to receive the recognition. The other is Atlanta.

Sponsored by the local veterans affairs group, in partnership with the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce, the ceremony also honors community members who are active in support of veterans.

Linda Williams, president of the chamber, was recognized with a letter of appreciation for her commitment to the cause.

"She's a special lady and we wanted to let her know how much we appreciate her," Hamalainen said.

The group also honored longtime community volunteer and veterans affairs member Bob Couch as the 2011 Veteran of the Year award.

Couch, who passed away earlier this year, designed the memorial at Veterans Memorial Park, where his widow Inez, family and friends gathered Friday morning to pay their respects.

"I'm so appreciative of you all," Inez Couch said Friday afternoon as she accepted the award.

Veterans affairs volunteers also presented singer and musician Rafael Picklesimer with the annual American Spirit Award.

A member of the Veterans Alliance, a group of retired military personnel who participate in military funerals across northeast Georgia, Picklesimer dedicated the award to his fellow volunteers.