Opelika, Auburn Hold Veterans Day Celebrations

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Veterans stand in salute during the National Anthem at Opelika's Veterans Day Celebration PHOTO BY ROBERT NOLES / THE OBSERVER

BY MICHELLE KEY
AND MEGAN MANN

Veterans Day is a time to honor those that have served in the armed forces. Opelika and Auburn both resumed their in-person Veterans Day celebrations this year.

OPELIKA

The city of Opelika hosted its annual Veterans Day celebration at the newly opened public library.

Veterans and their families were treated to breakfast before the ceremony.

Opelika’s Mayor Gary Fuller addressed the crowd about how important Veterans Day is.

“Veterans Day is a special day for all of us in the city of Opelika,” he said. “It is an honor for us to pay tribute to all of the veterans who have honorably served our country in times of war and peace.”

Following a prayer led by Pastor Chris Duncan of Trinity Presbyterian Church, the Opelika High School Choir sang the national anthem and President of the Opelika City Council, Eddie Smith, led the Pledge of Allegience.

Fuller then introduced Beauregard High School graduate (Class of  1979), Maj. Gen. Slyvester Cannon, who was the guest speaker for the ceremony.

“We are fortunate to have Maj. Gen. Cannon live in Opelika,” Fuller said. “He has commanded at all levels with multiple combat deployments.”

“Our veterans are our heroes,” Cannon said as he addressed those assembled. “[On Veterans Day] we honor our men and women, both young and old, for their sacrifices and efforts to serve and protect this country.

“Today, our servicemembers continue to risk their life, as some even make the ultimate sacrifice. As we pray for peace, we stand ready to defend our country, through whatever means necessary. We recognize [that] our freedom and liberty comes at a price.”

Cannon, a resident of Opelika, is currently serving as the Commanding General of the 167th Theater Sustainment Command headquartered at Fort McClellan, Alabama. He also works for the Alabama Department of Revenue in the Income Tax Audit and Appeals Division as a civilian.

Cannon has served in the Alabama National Guard for 40 years.

Maj. Elijah Beaver, a Judge Advocate for the 167th Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) attended Opelika’s event and said, “I deployed with him when he was Brig. Gen. Cannon, Commander of the 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC), and I was the primary prosecutor for the unit.”

“General Cannon was and is a great boss. He works hard to build his staff into a team, he’s very personable and down-to-Earth, and he trusts his Soldiers to do their jobs,” Beaver said. “His style of leadership is more relationship-driven rather than giving the big speech.  I came to see him speak because I respect him and I like him, and since we spent a year together in the desert he’s kind of like family.”

AUBURN

This past Thursday, the city of Auburn hosted its annual Veteran’s Day Ceremony. Members of the community gathered at the Auburn Veteran’s Memorial to remember and honor all the men and women that have served their country.

The memorial was made to honor the community’s veterans from any branch of service. It is made up of engraved bricks that have been dedicated to remembering the names of veteran’s and their families. Each year, Auburn provides the opportunity for family members of those that have served to purchase a brick in honor of their loved one. There is also an area specifically for citizens to place flowers and wreaths for those that have sacrificed their lives for our country.

“Today we recognize the establishment of this monument 20 years ago, an important step in this community’s history of recognizing our community’s veterans, ” said Auburn Mayor Ron Anders. “We are grateful for those who worked to make this monument a reality so that we can stand here today in a dedicated space to celebrate our nations heroes.This is a day for all of us to slow down and to take the time to honor all that our countries’ veterans from all eras and all wars have done to protect this great nation.”

The ceremony also included a choir performance from The East Samford School Choir, as well as a flag ceremony done by members of the Auburn High School JROTC. The main speaker of the day was Opelika Native and veteran, Corporal Jamie Popwell.

Popwell was born and raised in Opelika and served in the United States Marine Core from 1982-85. After leaving the military, he founded a nonprofit called Flags for Vets. This organization purchases and raises flags at veteran’s homes, and so far, has honored more than 500 veterans.

He spoke about the importance of the younger generation and instilling the value of appreciation in our children.

“This is my home and a place that I love being in,” he said. “On a day like today it is only fitting that I get to give some remarks on something that means so much to me. We want to let our kids know and show them just how important this day is because part of that is being lost now. I hope we engrain in our kids the importance behind it. From the bottom of my heart as a veteran thank you for showing up and supporting us on days like today.”

After the service many children walked up with bright eyes to offer a “thank you” to the men and women in uniform.

Turn to A9 to see photos from Auburn’s and Opelika’s Veterans Day ceremonies.

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