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VALDOSTA — World War II veteran Roy Cowart was in the crowd at Valwood School’s 11th Annual Veterans Day Program early Thursday.
The program was hosted by the middle school students, though students from the lower school greeted the vets as they arrived.
“(They) have a wonderful program,” Cowart said.
The 94-year-old has been attending the program with his wife, 92-year-old Letha Cowart, for at least three years.
Cowart worked in aviation ordnance in the Navy from 1943-46, serving in the battles of Guam, Peleliu, Tinian and Saipan.
He was drafted right after attending Valdosta High School when he was 18 years old. He said he was thrilled to receive the opportunity to serve in the Navy.
“It was a real experience. We were just young kids back then. We loved that flying, but it was unusual flying taking off and landing on water only,” he said.
Honoring Veterans Day is important because there would be no liberty or freedom without veterans, Cowart said.
“If we hadn’t have done what we did do, then (we) wouldn’t be sitting here,” he said.
Lymon Cole is a Vietnam War veteran who served in the Army infantry from 1967-68. He recalled an experience that injured his left eye.
“We were overrun at midnight, and this is one of my wounds that I received that night. Liked to have lost it all. Liked to lost my life. I was wounded twice that night,” Cole said.
He said he felt honored to serve and protect his country.
“It shows that we have strength to stand behind our country to go forward,” he said.
Valwood’s program began with Red Skelton’s rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance, which dissected the pledge’s lines.
Students proceeded to say the pledge before singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “America, the Beautiful.”
Other selections included “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better,” “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “Ragged Old Flag,” “Grand Old Flag,” songs of the Armed Forces and “God Bless America.”
Eighth-grader Bennett Alvarado sang the “Ballad of the Green Beret.” He’s participated in the program for the last three years.
“Sometimes it makes me cry because it makes me feel happy seeing (veterans) out here and letting them be able to be honored like they are,” he said.
Anabelle Melendez was one of three eighth-graders to sing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” Her grandfather was in the Vietnam War.
“(Veterans Day) is important to me because I think it’s a really good way to say thank you to everybody who has helped keep our country safe,” she said.
Following the program, brunch was available for guests.