Local veterans gather to celebrate dedication

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 31, 2004

NATCHEZ &045;&045; The local crowd was much smaller than the Washington, D.C., crowd, but the sentiments were the same Saturday during the dedication of the national World War II Memorial.

Fewer than 40 people gathered at the Natchez Convention Center to watch a live feed of the D.C. events on the big screen.

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole and President Bush were among those who spoke at the national dedication. &uot;We are acknowledging a debt of longstanding to an entire generation of Americans,&uot; Bush said to the crowd.

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That acknowledgement was exactly what local veteran Al Bedgood has been waiting on.

&uot;(The war) had the biggest impact on my life,&uot; Bedgood said. &uot;I was a young boy, 17, going into combat, the youngest of my family. Just to finally see evidence that we were acknowledged nationwide is great.&uot;

Bedgood said he received no recognition when he returned home from war and never saw any brass bands or parades.

Veterans Services Officer Erle Drane has been organizing Saturday’s Miss-Lou celebration for nearly four months.

&uot;We had the perfect program, it’s just a shame people would rather watch at home,&uot; Drane said. &uot;It is just icing on the cake to be able to see those people that experienced it, to see the camera scan and show the emotion and pleasure they were getting out of it.&uot;

WWII Navy veteran N.D. Fuller said he came out because the dedication was important to him. &uot;I was in part of that, and that makes it important,&uot; he said. &uot;We saw a lot of bad things and it was great to see this happen.&uot;

Other Miss-Lou events included a prayer breakfast Saturday morning at First Baptist Church and the awarding of certificates to veterans and those involved in the war effort. Displays set up in the Convention Center included historical information about the war and the role of American soldiers. Drane said he was pleased with the support of the community in providing door prizes and assistance in the event.

Saturday’s events also raised over $2,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network through Walk-A-Thon sponsors.