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Isles celebrates Veterans Day
With an American flag in one hand and her brother sitting beside her, 4-year-old Marley Kate Ginn watched in awe from the Mallery Street median in the St. Simons Island Pier Village as a line of motorcycles passed by during Monday's Veterans Day Parade.

Although she may not have fully understood the importance of her presence, Marley Kate's father, Steven Ginn, was well aware of why he brought his children to the parade.

"God bless the veterans for doing what they do," said Ginn, whose grandfather, Harold Von Nessen, served in the military.

Ginn hoped taking Marley Kate and her brother Wilson, also 4, to the parade would give them a head start to understanding the sacrifices made by servicemen and women.

"These kids don't know what they have," he said.

Ginn and his children were among the crowd lining the streets around the St. Simons Island Pier Village for the parade. People later gathered at the Casino community building in Neptune Park for a ceremony honoring those who made the commitments to serving their country.

With this year marking the 60th anniversary of the truce that suspended the Korean War, Joe Connolly, chairman of the Veterans Council of the Golden Isles, which sponsored the parade, asked spectators to keep veterans of that conflict at the forefront of their minds.

That was easy for Army Maj. Eric Partin, who went to St. Simons Island Monday from active duty at Fort Stewart, in Liberty County.

For Partin, whose grandfather was Korean, the importance of the war cannot be overstated.

"If it weren't for the tenacity of this country and the Korean War veterans, I would not be here today," Partin said before turning and specifically thanking Korean War veteran Gordon Davis, who sat on stage behind him.

Moments earlier, Davis had been named Veteran of the Year by the council, an award given annually. Davis served three tours in Korea with the Army. He also served in World War II and the Vietnam War.

Partin continued his remarks by turning his attention to the current and future servicemen and women who will one day be veterans themselves. He said more than 130,000 people will leave the armed services this year, all of whom will contribute to what he described as the largest number of young veterans the country has seen since the close of the Vietnam War.

"They will all need our help making the transition," Partin said.

South of St. Simons Island, in downtown Kingsland, men, women and children lined a parade route to pay tribute to those who have served and to dedicate a new gazebo, named in honor of spouses of military veterans, at a city park.

They cheered as a procession of floats, cars, trucks and tractors passed by. The cheers grew when dozens of sailors from Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay marched by, followed by the next generation of soldiers, sailors and Marines -- JROTC members from Camden County High School.

The loudest cheers, however, were for veterans from all branches of the military who rode on floats or walked the half-mile route.

After the parade, a ceremony at Kingsland Veterans Memorial Park paid tribute to spouses of veterans, who speakers said were often the unsung heroes who provided the emotional support that those serving in the military needed so they could give their undivided attention to their jobs.

Kingsland City Councilman Don Mounsey, an Air Force veteran, is credited with being the driving force behind the creation of the veterans park. A gazebo is named Spouse House, in honor of the spouses of veterans and those married to active-duty military.

"This Veterans Memorial Park is for the military, their spouses and their families," Mounsey said.

The gazebo has five sides, each dedicated to a branch of the military -- Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

Kingsland Mayor Ken Smith said the gazebo enables people to hold community functions under shade and shelter at the city's newest park.

"I definitely want to see this continue to grow," Smith said.

During his speech, Smith, a Navy veteran, thanked the veterans and their families.

"Veterans Day is an opportunity to say two very important words: 'thank you,'" he said. "We all owe all our veterans a debt we can never repay. I salute our service veterans."

* President Obama celebrates Veterans Day in a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, 7A

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