HIGH POINT — As he watched the American flag being raised at the High Point Community Center on Friday, Kent MacArthur pondered his past. Veterans Day ceremonies always make him remember his Army days in the 1960s in Vietnam.
"It was a long time ago, but I haven't forgotten the people I served with," MacArthur said. "It's mixed emotions, but I'm grateful for today."
That was the sentiment of many of the people who turned out for the community's annual salute to veterans. Many sat side by side, dressed in caps, shirts and jackets identifying what branch of the military they served in, and listened to presentations and music before being served lunch.
"It was a big part of my life," said Al Kemper, 71, who spent eight years in the Navy's submarine corps. "I went in as a kid and came out as a man. You learn responsibility and how to do things the right way. I'll never forget it."
Friday's ceremony opened with the traditional flag raising performed by the honor guard from American Legion Post 186. Post chaplain Charles Haig reminded onlookers that they were there to honor all veterans "whether they served during a time of battle or a time of peace."
Most veterans in attendance ranged in age from about 55 to their 80s. They came with wives, mothers, fathers, children and grandchildren. Each had a reason for being there. Bill Bachman, 78, of Brooksville said he comes each year because he can.
"It's nice to be sharing this with people who have been through similar experiences," he said. "I've met some people who have become very good friends over the years."
Post 186 commander Frank Babicz said that High Point's annual celebration always has a strong turnout due to the high number of veterans who live there. But he has seen fewer and fewer World War II veterans as time has passed.
"We're losing so many," he said. "One of the reasons we have these events is to remind them that we will never forget them or the sacrifices they made for our country."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.