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Sunday focus: Community embraces veterans

 

NATCHEZ — For the past three years, one local veteran said he has received a handwritten card for Veterans Day that touches his heart.

“It’s a great day,” said Donnie Verucchi, U.S. Army Specialist 4. “I got a happy Veterans Day card from him. He must be in the second or third grade from a friend of mine’s family, and that just warms my heart that young people care enough to sign their name and draw a picture and send it to me.”

Such gestures are common in the Miss-Lou, area veterans said, especially on special occasions such as Veterans Day, which the nation celebrates today and on Nov. 11 each year to honor the nation’s veterans who have served in all branches of the United States Armed Forces.

Verucchi said he spent two years in service, one of them in Vietnam, and is a Purple Heart recipient.

Verucchi said the Miss-Lou always has embraced veterans.

“On patriotic days you always see flags flying all over town,” Verucchi said. “Natchez, Vidalia, Ferriday, Woodville, Fayette, they’re all doing things to stoke the fires of patriotism. If I had to choose another community, I don’t think I could choose one much better than Natchez for supporting veterans.”

The American flags that are placed along Main Street and U.S. 61 are a fundraiser for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9573, said VFW Commander John Floyd.

Floyd is a 28-year retired veteran of the Mississippi National Guard with six years of active duty and said approximately 90 businesses make $50 donations for the flags to be put out eight times a year, on such days as Veterans Day, Memorial Day and 9-11.

Larry Lawrence, of Ridgecrest, served in the U.S. Navy as a hull technician, 2nd Class. He said the appreciation shown for military these days is vastly greater than when he returned from serving in Vietnam.

“My son served in Desert Storm, and when they came home my goal was they weren’t going to be treated the way we were when we came home. They spat on you and called you baby killers and everything else, and it’s a whole different thing now,” Lawrence said. “Veterans from the Vietnam era made sure that those serving after us, in combat mainly, that they didn’t get treated like we did.”

Lawrence said the camaraderie among combat veterans is a strong one that others don’t quite understand.

The Mississippi Veterans Affairs Office said Adams County has 3,500 veterans, and Floyd said 109 of those veterans are members of VFW Post 9573, and nationwide the VFW has 1.6 million members.

Floyd said the VFW is working to change its reputation and is devoted to providing services to the nation’s veterans.

Floyd drives a van that carries veterans from throughout the state to the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Jackson on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

That is just one of the many services VFW Post 9573 provides to fellow veterans, Floyd said.

“Twice in the last three years we donated funds to individuals who had their house burned out,” Floyd said. “We helped veterans who were short on paying light bills or getting prescription meds. We’ve probably done 10 or 12 wheelchair ramps in the past couple years.”

The Miss Lou has several organizations that provide service to veterans and their families, including:

  • Home for Heroes, a non-profit organization that operates a clothing bank for veterans in the VFW building near the Natchez Walmart on Seargent S. Prentiss Drive and is open 9 a.m. to noon Thursdays and Fridays.
  • Adams County Veterans Service Office, 115 South Pearl Street, is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. and provides literature about the claims process for veteran benefits and information on veterans’ events. The veterans service office can be reached at 601-445-8706.
  • Wreaths Across America will place wreaths on the burial sites of veterans 11 a.m. Dec. 15 at Natchez National Cemetery. Wreaths are $15. To sponsor call 601-442-0980.
  • VFW Post 9573 assists veterans with labor. Monetary donations are used to help veterans in need, said Post Commander John Floyd. Call 601-392-6700.

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