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Here are some of the sights from the 2020 Cumming Veterans Day Ceremony
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Members of American Legion Post 307, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9143 and Cumming Chapter 1030 of the Vietnam Veterans of America lay three wreaths at a replica of the Tomb of the Unkown Soldier at the 2020 Veterans Day Ceremony - photo by Kelly Whitmire

As local veterans and other members of the community gathered under the Cumming Fairground’s covered arena for a Veterans Day ceremony that looked different than most years, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Henry Thompson made it clear that COVID-19 would not stop the community from celebrating local veterans. 

“This is a time to remember men and women who have delivered us our freedoms,” Thompson said. “There are currently over 18 million veterans in the United States. This year, Veterans Day looks a little different than in years past. Covid-19 has made this a different kind of year. We are, however, still recognizing those who serve. Covid-19 is not going to take away Veterans Day from us.”

Thompson served as keynote speaker on Wednesday, Nov. 11 for the city of Cumming’s annual Veterans Day Ceremony, which was organized this year by American Legion Post 307 in Cumming.

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Like Thompson said, this year’s ceremony looked different than most years as not only were seats spread out to meet social distancing guidelines and held at the fairgrounds’ arena instead of the city’s Veterans War Memorial due to weather forecasts.

Thompson said the pandemic has left much of the country feeling like veterans often feel, fighting an invisible enemy, living in a changed world, dealing with lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders, having to miss important events, having to wear protective equipment and people they know dying. 

“This is not new to you [veterans],” he said. “You have been here before. The majority of our nation has not been here. They don’t understand it. They haven’t seen what you’ve seen. Our country is living in an environment right now where the rules are different. The stress level is the highest it’s been since WWII.”

He said the impacts of the pandemic have left people dealing with increased PTSD, depression and suicide, which veterans face every day.

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U.S. Army Lt. Col. Henry Thompson did 22 pushups before the Veterans Day crowd, the same number as the average number of veterans who commit suicide daily.

So, every day, Thompson does pushups each morning, as part of a veterans’ suicide awareness social media campaign to do 22 pushups, the average number of veteran suicides each day in the country. 

Thompson said Wednesday was his 503rd straight day doing at least 62 pushups but told the crowd he had only done 40 of his pushups that morning, before getting on his hands and firing off the last 22 to show how quickly it could be done, about 22 seconds.

“Do mental pushups if you have to,” Thompson said. “I know that as time goes along, sometimes your body doesn’t work like it used to and you may still have injuries from when you were on active duty, so if you have to, do your pushups mentally. The thought is there, it will change you, it will change what you do for the rest of the day. It will raise awareness.

“If you can’t do pushups, do 22 of something.” 

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Along with Thompson’s remarks, the ceremony also included a scale replica of one of America’s most well-known landmarks, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier located at Arlington National Cemetery.

The replica was built for the Exchange Club of Rome, whose members bring the replica to events across the country. 

During Tuesday’s ceremony, members of American Legion Post 307, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9143 and Cumming Chapter 1030 of the Vietnam Veterans of America laid three wreaths at the base of the replica. 

Though there were some unique circumstances, other parts of the celebration were like any other year, such as local students performing Patriotic songs, presentation of colors by the Forsyth County Fire Department and a 21-gun salute from the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard.

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