Photo by Joe Bellacomo

Photo by Joe Bellacomo

ALBANY, Ga. -- When the band played the Marine Corps Hymn, Laura Corporon stood in the audience at Veterans Memorial Park Amphitheater Saturday.

As part of a Salute to Veterans Day ceremony the U.S. Marine Corps Band played a medley of the anthems of each branch of American military service. Veterans of each branch stood as their song was played.

Corporon, a newly retired 20-year Marine veteran, stood with the rest of the Marines in attendance to the audience's applause.

Near tears Corporon said, "This ceremony. It means a lot to me. It means a lot to just have people say thank you."

The ceremonies began at 10 a.m. and included a rousing National Anthem sung by Karla Heath Sands, an invocation by Veterans of Foreign Wars Chaplain John Monroe and a proclamation by Albany Mayor Pro-Tem Christopher Pike.

Guest speaker Maj. Gen. James A. Kessler, commander of the Marine Corps Logistic Base-Albany paid tribute to those who served in the armed forces and their families.

"This is a significant day for me as an American citizen to get to see a community come out and commemorate the sacrifices of those who served this great nation," Kessler said, "and to salute the families who endured hardships while their veteran served. From the "Greatest Generation"(of World War II) to those who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan today, we are a grateful nation."

Brenda Purvis and her two sons Corey and Austin came to the third annual ceremony for the first time.

"We knew they had these before but this is our first year here," Purvis said. "We are here to honor the veterans and celebrate the freedom they give us in America."

The Saturday after November 11, Veterans Day has become a traditional time to say thank you to veterans. It is also a time for veterans and non-veterans to enjoy each others camaraderie.

After a stirring rendition of "America the Beautiful" by Sands, the ceremonies ended with organizer Paul Murray, vice commander of VFW Post 2785, promising there will be another Veterans Appreciation day next year.

Many from the audience joined motorcyclists, the American Legion Train and some military vehicles for a parade to the VFW Post on Philema Road.

At the VFW the Black Diamond Band and DJ Earl "Big Daddy Love" Schlegal entertained and Wagners Bar-Be-Que served food to raise money for Operation One Voice and the VFW.

Operation One Voice is a nonprofit organization raising money to help families of special operations forces who struggle after loved ones are killed or injured during service overseas.