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County Memorial Day service welcomes Navy pilot, veterans

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The crowd gathered inside the upstairs meeting room of the Wilson County Courthouse flowed into the hallways on Monday for a special Memorial Day service, sponsored by American Legion Post 15, City of Lebanon and Wilson County.

Following the welcome by Master of Ceremonies Lt. Col. Jim D. Henderson, SSG J.W. McGuire gave the invocation. There was a posting of the colors by American Legion Post 15 Color Guard, commanded by MM5 Bob Hailey, the National Anthem by MS Daisey Kludt and the Pledge of Allegiance led by EM2 Max Smith.

United States Navy Capt. (ret.) Jack Bowers served as guest speaker. Bowers, who lives in Wilson County, is a veteran pilot with over 5,000 hours of logged time in Navy aircraft and 500 carrier landings. Bowers is a 1959 graduate of Vanderbilt University.

He completed 27 years of service to the Navy in a variety of commands in active service before retiring in 1986. A program distributed to guests listed his awards to include: Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal (twice), Navy Commendation and Expeditionary Medals. Bowers took his time at the podium to recite poems written for war veterans.

The ceremony also recognized the families of veterans and those actively serving in the military - Gold Star and Blue Star Mothers in particular. Reba Baltz, president of the Music City Star Chapter of Blue Star Mothers, told the Wilson Post that the organization has been in existence since the 1940s. "We meet in Smyrna on the first Sunday of the month and do a lot of service projects," she said, noting that Alicia Hovies, who spoke during the program, is also involved in the organization. "Mt. Juliet Elementary sends 500 Christmas stockings overseas in November."

Before closing the ceremony, Henderson spoke of POW/MIA soldiers throughout America's history. Bill Burkart, whose father was a pilot who went missing in Vietnam, helped to lay a wreath in honor of them.

Veterans Service Officer Bernie Ash was moved by the ceremony and said it was a "great time to remember those who gave their all."

He added that next month they hope to start construction on a museum in the Veterans Plaza.

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