Thank a Veteran

Published 1:12 pm Sunday, November 13, 2022

My dad, a young man called into service during WWII, taught me that freedom is not free. It has come at a price. He was one who knew: He along with five older brothers served our country during one of America’s closest calls. I truly believe had it not been for “The Greatest Generation” we, the “Grateful Generation,” would have grown up in an entirely different world – if we had even had the grace of being born at all.

Thankfully, my dad came home to a free America, as did all of his brothers. He kissed the ground when his ship landed in New York City. He had been all the way from Normandy to Berlin with the US Combat Engineers, clearing the way for General Patton’s army to win the war on the European front. R.W. “Doby” Gibson was glad to be home!

Over the past few weeks, we have been celebrating many great blessings in Natchez. Grants, new playgrounds, festivals, business openings, the list goes on and on. In the “busyness” of all of this great activity, it becomes easy to forget those whose sacrifices make living in a free country with so many great blessings possible.

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If anyone thinks for a moment that great things happen by happenstance, they need to rethink. Nothing is free. All of our blessings can be traced to our Heavenly Father who has truly blessed America and to the many men and women in uniform who, even today, stand watch at the portals of freedom so that we can be free. 

To thank a veteran is easy to do – and in Natchez, they are all around us! I think of “Captain Jack” Kerwin, who in his upper nineties can still recall every detail of his loyal service to America across three military conflicts: World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. Captain Jack was Grand Marshall of last year’s Veterans Day Parade, leading a procession on foot all the way down Main Street to The Bluff – he is an inspiration to us all!

There is Ben Tucker, Deputy Commander of VFW Post 9573 in Natchez, who just this week was named “Veteran of the Year”, having served in both the 82nd Airborne and also the Army National Guard, serving over three decades, to include both Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Now retired, First Sergeant Tucker works tirelessly to help others in Natchez, on a completely volunteer basis. The list of his community service activities is vast! 

And there is also Mark LaFrancis who is a 23-year Air Force Veteran, currently serving as Founder and President of Home With Heroes Foundation Inc., a private non-profit organization dedicated to helping veterans and their families, especially those suffering from combat-related issues. Home With Heroes sponsors Wreaths Across America in Natchez each Christmas, and provides much-needed assistance, clothing, and other resources to numerous veterans throughout the Miss-Lou each year. 

As we approach the holiday season, about to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, and all of the other great occasions that happen during this time of year, from Hannukah to Kwanza, it is appropriate that we pause to thank our veterans. In just a few weeks we will celebrate the beginning of 2023. Another year will dawn on the Land of the Free. Let’s not take it for granted. 

Take a moment to thank a Veteran. They have done more than we can imagine to secure our blessings of freedom. And in Natchez, such blessings are cherished. Because Natchez Deserves More. 

Dan Gibson is mayor of Natchez.