Hundreds gathered at the Wilson County Veterans Plaza on Wednesday site on Wednesday morning to pay homage to the brave men and women who have served our country in the United States Armed Forces.
Organizations including the American Legion Post 15, the City of Lebanon and Wilson County sponsored the annual event - which was coordinated and emceed by Lt. Col. Jim. D. Henderson.
The celebration kicked-off just past 10 a.m. when the parade traveled a route from West Main Street in Lebanon, around the Square, before coming to a stop at the Veterans Plaza location on East Main Street next to the courthouse.
World War II veteran Elmer Marler served as parade Grand Marshal. Marler, a veteran of D-Day, who served in the 393rd Infantry Division, has received honors including the Bronze Star and The Legion of Honor. He recently celebrated his 100th birthday.
The invocation was given by former Lebanon Mayor and Post 15 Chaplain Don W. Fox, followed by Posting of the Colors by Post 15 and 281 Color Guards. PO1 Dan Walker led the Pledge of Allegiance. The Gold Star Mothers were represented by Chairperson Alicia Hovies.
1st Lt. Norman F. Weber was invited to speak at the event - and gave the crowd a different look at World War II through the eyes of a young American boy in Germany during World War II.
Weber served in the United States Air Force. He is a graduate of University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University. He and his wife, Sandy, now work as part-time tour guides in Nashville and reside in Wilson County.
Although Weber was an American Citizen, born in New York City, to be exact, his family lived in Germany for six years during that time period.
His mother feared that the family would be in danger if those outside of it discovered Weber and his sister were American citizens. Weber said his parents told him to forget English and learn the German language.
Weber listened to news of the war, broadcasted by an underground radio station, on a small radio he kept hidden in his room.
"I listened to the radio against the law at that time. My parents allowed it, but if we would have been caught, it would have been detrimental to us," he explained. "I kept listening... every time I would tell my mother something I had heard she would say, 'Keep it to yourself, son. Let us adults take care of it. You do not tell anybody - not even your relatives in the household."
"She protected me because I'm an American citizen," he continued.
Much of what Weber learned of the war came through his maternal grandmother's diary entries. His German grandmother wrote on many occasions about the "might of the American soldiers."
In one entry on Oct. 4, 1944, his grandmother wrote that the Americans had taken a German city. She depicted how the soldiers were received - with cheering and waving.
"The American soldier was looked upon not as a conqueror, not as an occupier, but as a liberator," Weber said.
It was in May of 1945 when Weber saw - in person - an American soldier. He and his cousin observed the soldiers coming in - driving a "very odd vehicle."
"We kind of laughed at it, and thought, 'How could anybody build such a vehicle?'" Weber said, before pausing to laugh. "It was a Jeep."
Americans opened the gates of a nearby labor camp. Weber said the people exiting the camp were very angry at the Germans - and didn't discriminate who they unleashed their anger on.
"We had no choice but to run from our home because they would storm the home," he said.
He remembered his mother running up to the gates of an encampment and handing an American soldier two pieces of paper - the birth certificates of her two American children.
"Immediately American troops came and protected us and the whole family," Weber said, adding that with the assistance of his mother, the troops went out to find and protect their neighbors.
The ceremony closed with a laying of the wreath, drums by David Arnold, "Taps" by Larry Squires and a 21 Gun Salute by Post 281 Color Guard, Sgt. Jim Atwood Commanding.
Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at email@example.com.