An American Legion Post 19 hat sitting on the head of U.S. Army veteran Alton Clemmons' was not the only evidence that he served in the military. Another gesture was the Vietnam veteran standing motionless while perfectly saluting the American Flag as it was hoisted by the Tarboro High School JROTC Monday during the Pilot Club's 38th annual Veterans Day service on the Town Common.
After the service, Clemons acknowledged that he and his fellow Vietnam comrades didn't receive a warm welcome when they returned to United States' soil because many Americans were against the nation involvement.
Since then time has healed those wounds.
"We really fell it necessary to thank our veterans — not just those locally but to honor all those who have served," said Pilot Club president Carolyn Worden. "I think sometimes in our day to day life we forget to thank those who have made so many of our freedom possible. So this day is about them."
Clemons said the harsh reaction to his return to America was devastating. Therefore, he looks forward to Tarboro Veterans Day ceremonies
"There was a lot of negatives stuff going on when we came back home," Clemmons said. "They spit on us and called us baby killers. That's what make these services special."
The ceremony also included Tarboro High School JROTC raising the flags for all five branches of the United States Armed Forces above the Veterans Memorial while their respective songs were played. Before each song, Marcia Cherry, pilot club member, announced the name of each branch of service and the date in which they were found. Veterans were asked to stand while their respective branch song was played.
Cherry who gave a tribute to the veterans, thanked all them for their services. She said veterans are proud and humble. "A veteran is the first to stand up when a flag passes by on the Fouth of July and one down down because he or she has shared in the struggle blood and tears" that make a parade and all parade possible.
As another symbol of gratitude, Pilot Club members Arlene Bunch and Jane Harper placed a memorial wreath in front of the Veterans Memorial.
As "Taps" was played, 10-year old Hannah Clark, of Greenville, fought back tears while her grandmother Julie Clark of Tarboro consoled her. Hannah's grandfather, Leo Dixon, was a World War II veteran. Dixon died in 2007. When Hannah was asked why was she emotional, she replied, "I miss my Granddaddy."
When Worden was told about Hannah's expression, she was not surprised. Worden said young people are in tune to their patriotic duties. That was evidence by the 20 Tarboro High School ROTC students who volunteered for the duty.
"Many people feel that our young people are going down hill quickly," "They are not. They are patriotic and they care they understand, they know the pledge of allegiance they know what our country stand for. It's really nice because they have seen this model from their grandparents and their parents. They know that they served and its an honorable things to serve your nation and your community. I think we got a great deal to be proud of with our young people. Not just JORTC but all of young people. I really feel that they care and they are our future and we are in good hands."
THS JROTC instructor, Col. Wilson agreed.
"We had so many of our cadets to come out this morning to participate on one of their days off from school," he said. "A lot of kids would have rather slept in and have mom bring them breakfast in bed. They got up early and put on their Air Force uniform and they came out here and participated in the program and duly paid respect to all of our military veterans."
Tarboro is one of the most patriotic towns in Eastern North Carolina. Each month the Golden K Kiwanis sponsors a flag raising ceremony that honor an Edgecombe County deceased veteran. Tarboro also has a veterans museum with a collection of hundreds of veteran pictures and military memorabilia. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.