Veterans to be honored Saturday

ALBANY, Ga. -- Despite losing a major sponsor due to the economy, the annual Veterans Appreciation Day in Albany is still scheduled for Saturday.

Early sponsor Flint River Harley-Davidson moved out of town, but Ray Jennings and Paul Murray, the two men who started the veterans event in 2008, vowed to keep it going.

"We wanted to continue the momentum of veterans recognition by continuing to have a ceremony, parade and party," said Murray, vice commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2785. "A request for the U.S. Marine Corps Band to participate was accepted. This was fantastic."

The band will play in the Veterans Park Amphitheatre at 10 a.m. In addition, singer Karla Heath Sands, a group of elected officials and guest speaker Maj. Gen. James Kessler, commander of Marine Corps Logistic Base-Albany, will participate in the opening of the day's events.

"Mayor Pro-Tem Christopher Pike will read a proclamation designating Saturday as Veterans Appreciation Day," Murray said. "The day's activities will also include a fundraising effort for Operation One Voice."

Operation One Voice is a nonprofit organization that raises money to help families of special operations forces struggling to provide support for loved ones injured or killed in action during service overseas.

After the music and the remarks at the park, local law enforcement agencies plan to escort a parade led by the Veterans Tribute Bike, a heavily armed motorcycle, followed by the American Legion Train and other motorcycles and vehicles with patriotic decorations, to the VFW.

At the VFW, the Black Diamond band and DJ Earl "Big Daddy Love" Schlegal will entertain starting at 11:30 a.m. Wagners Bar-Be-Que will provide food for lunch, and Hooters girls will participate in a bikini contest at 3 p.m.

Various fundraisers for Operation One Voice, such as a "dice run" for motorcycle riders and an auction, will also be held.

According to Murray, there are about 85,000 veterans in the Albany area. He said they all deserve the support of the community through activities such as those planned Saturday.

"Rain or shine," Murray said. "Bad weather? Ceremony and party inside the VFW. It is big enough. Come out and support your veterans."