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May 24, 2014

Center honors America’s veterans at pre-Memorial Day ceremony

NORMAN — Between folding chairs and wheelchairs, veterans sat among family members Friday morning in the Norman Veterans Center to celebrate Memorial Day.

Jeannene Wade, programs administrator, said her job is emotional.

“We’re very honored here at the Veterans Center to take care of these amazing veterans,” she said. “We’ve come to know them and love them so much.”

After welcoming veterans to the ceremony, Terry Wilkerson, Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Norman administrator, spoke of the importance of celebrating Memorial Day.

Originally known as “Decoration Day” after the Civil War, the holiday soon became known as “Memorial Day” and was officially recognized by Congress in 1887. Although the name has changed, the reason for celebrating remains the same, Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson said Friday’s ceremony was about honoring the memories of those veterans among us and the ones no longer with us.

In the midst of patriots from all branches of the military, guest speaker Darry Stacy, District 2 Cleveland County commissioner, shared his deeply rooted family history and legacy of veterans.

With his son recently enlisting in the Army, Stacy said the ceremony was especially meaningful to him.

“As we pay tribute to our veterans, I watch the service move from one generation to another,” Stacy said.

Veterans who had lived at the Veterans Center and died within the last year were commemorated in a special way.

The toll of a bell followed each name as it was read aloud. Family members and friends of those being honored rang the bell themselves to remember their loved ones. Each toll of the bell provided a pause for reflection, proving emotional for all involved.

“It took everything in me not to cry while ringing that bell,” Wade said.

Chaplain David Fox closed the ceremony with a benediction. For the past 15 years, Fox has served as the Veterans Center chaplain and gathered with veterans every Sunday.

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