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|Salute to veterans|
Chennault Aviation and Military Museum director Nell Calloway knows many U.S. veterans have never been thanked for their service to their country.
Almost every day, a veteran will visit and tour the museum, and some will talk about their experiences in the military.
According to Calloway, she recently met a Vietnam veteran who talked about the unpleasant experience he encountered when he returned to the United States after being wounded in the war. Anti-war protesters greeted the veteran in San Francisco, according to Calloway. They spit on the veteran, she said.
Ron Griggs of Calhoun encountered the same treatment when he returned from Vietnam. He also arrived in San Francisco.
"I was spat on, too," said Griggs, who was volunteering at the museum Wednesday. "You wouldn't believe it. We wanted to get back on the plane and go back to Vietnam."
Griggs broke down briefly as he reflected on his experiences in Vietnam. He was a Cobra helicopter pilot who was shot down four times. He received three purple hearts and was decorated for valor 10 times. He volunteers every day at the museum and loves every minute of it.
Griggs proudly showed off his display where his medals, uniform and several photos and articles about him are displayed. He said Calloway helped him tell his story to others after decades of keeping it to himself.
"I went 40 years and never spoke a word about it, and Nell hounded me and hounded me for three years to come out and speak to others," Griggs explained. "I told her one day that I was ready and we just hugged and prayed and got through it. I've spoken to several other groups since then and it really makes you feel better.
"My kids never even knew and they just asked, 'Dad, why didn't you tell us?' "
Calloway hopes the public turns out for a Veteran's Day celebration at the museum Saturday to show their support for veterans and thank them for their service to their country.
The Veteran's Day celebration will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The museum is located at 701 Kansas Lane in Monroe.
The event is free to the public.
There will be a rock-climbing wall and zoo animals on site for children to see.
Brigadier Gen. Joseph Brodney Veillon, assistant adjutant general for the Air National Guard, will speak at 11 a.m. following an F-15 flyover.
Veillon will arrive via a UH 72 Lakota helicopter at 10:30 a.m. The helicopter, which is new to the Air National Guard, will be on display throughout the event.
The Neville High School Band, Ouachita Parish ROTC drill team and Louisiana National Guard troops will participate in the ceremony.
The National Guard will perform a flag folding ceremony with a flag that flew over Baghdad. They also will perform a ceremony in remembrance of fallen soldiers.
A catfish dinner will be served at a minimal charge. Veterans can eat for half price.
Handicapped parking will be provided along with designated parking areas for all participants. Golf carts and shuttles will be on hand to transport visitors.
"Every day at the museum is Veteran's Day, but this is just a party for them to let them know we appreciate them," Calloway said. "We want them to know we appreciate our freedom since it's because of them we get to enjoy a day like Saturday."
"I hope our local veterans will come out and let us show them our appreciation," she added.
She also hopes the public will come out in numbers to thank the veterans for their service.
"This really would give the public an opportunity to show how much they appreciate our veterans," Calloway said. "This is just one way we can say thank you."
One of the missions at the museum is to instill patriotism in children, Calloway said.
Students from various area schools often tour the museum and many of them do not know what a veteran is or know of the sacrifices many of them made for their country, she said.
"It's so important we teach our kids about what these guys have done for us," Calloway continued. "We need to show how much we care for them, and we should show our appreciation to them in every way we can."
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