“Somebody asked me, ‘Pastor, do we have any honored guests coming tonight?’” Roswell Street Senior Pastor the Rev. Dr. Ernest L. Easley said. “I said, ‘We’ve got a lot of honored guests — the veterans.’ ”
The hour-long program included patriotic music such as “God Bless America” and “The Star Spangled Banner,” as well as a tribute to those killed in action. Prisoners of war and those missing in action were remembered with an empty table near the church’s pulpit.
The featured speaker was Command Sgt. Major Carmen Morales, the first woman to hold that position with the Georgia Army National Guard. She discussed how she could barely speak English when she came from Puerto Rico and worked her way up over 23 years, serving in places like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Hawaii in the process.
“I always tell my troops, ‘Never quit,’” Morales said. “‘Never make excuses. The sky is the limit and opportunity is there if you apply yourself.’ ”
The Journal sponsored the seventh annual event along with Roswell Street Baptist Church. Easley thanked Journal Publisher Otis Brumby III for continuing with the program started by his father, the late Otis A. Brumby Jr.
“Tonight we gather to honor our service members past and present and remember what we dare not forget — the price of freedom is high, and we cherish our soldiers, our sailors, our airmen, our special forces, who bravely fought and are currently fighting for our country,” said Brumby III, the event’s master of ceremonies.
The church’s orchestra played the songs from the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marine Corps, asking the corresponding veterans from each branch of the service to stand up while their song was performed. Confetti fell over the audience at the conclusion of the tribute.
Easley concluded the event by asking veterans and others in attendance to turn to God.
“There’s some of you here that are great patriots, great service men and women and the truth is, you’ve never really come into a relationship with God,” Easley said. “You’ve heard a lot about God, and you’ve heard a lot about Jesus, but the truth of the matter is tonight you look inside your own heart and it’s empty. There’s no forgiveness, there’s no genuine freedom from the bondage of sin, the kind of freedom that only God gives.”
World War II veteran Clarence Robinson, 87, said afterward the program “meant everything to me.”
“I lost my best friend in combat in World War II,” said the Powder Springs resident, who served in the Marines at Iwo Jima. “And not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and pray to God that we can live in a land like this, free and without any war.”
Event organizer the Rev. Dr. John Crooks said the veterans program outgrew the church’s banquet hall, which seats 450 people. So it was moved this year to the worship center.
“I would say we had more than we’ve had before,” Crooks said.