Sugar Hill residents and officials gathered at the city’s Veterans Memorial to honor the nation’s troops on Tuesday, Nov. 11. Dignitaries including Mayor Steve Edwards, Sugar Hill City Council member Marc Cohen and United States representative for Georgia’s 7th district, Carolyn Bourdeaux, spoke at the ceremony.
Before the event, veterans, residents, and government officials all mingled in the overcast morning as the Broadstreet Band entertained with a patriotic music ensemble.
“I think for our city, [this is] an absolute priority,” newly elected city council member Mason Roszel said before the ceremony began. “We are a community that honors our veterans, and one of my favorite things that’s a new part of the memorial is the plaque … that honors those on the homefront, so the spouses and the families. They serve as well by having their loved ones go over and fight to protect us.”
The ceremony opened with retired USMC Gunnery Sergeant Laura Ann Bigley welcoming the audience. She then led the observance as the American Legion Post 127 Color Guard raised the American flag while the Broadstreet Band played the National Anthem. This was followed by the Color Guard performing a traditional 21 gun salute as the trumpeter in the Broadstreet Band played “Taps.”
After some special remarks by retired USMC serviceman, Bill Harting, Mayor Edwards praised the contributions of Mayor-elect Brandon Hembree, saying, “I want to say thank you for all you do for this great celebration. Brandon started this a long time ago, and it’s just a great event.”
Edwards went on to recognize the Sugar Hill City Council members and thank the city staff.
Before introducing Congresswoman Bourdeaux, Edwards noted Tuesday’s ceremony would be his last as mayor, standing before the Veterans Memorial as he said, “Of my 18 years doing this, this behind me is probably my most moving, my most cherished thing that we have done as a team. And we did this as a team, so thank you team. This will always be remembered.”
Bourdeaux followed Edwards’ remarks and recalled a significant Christmas in her life, the first Christmas following a close family friend’s return after eight years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, so long that, “his family buried him, and he has his tombstone now in the center of his garden.” As they sat around the tree, the man became overwhelmed and poignantly stated to the family, “We have so much.”
Bourdeaux went on to mention other friends and family members who have served before discussing the legislation she and her office are working on, including the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, allowing service members and their families who were affected by contaminated water at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune to seek compensation. She also mentioned the PACT Act, which provides health care for veterans exposed to airborne hazards and burn pits during their service. She and her team are also working with Hired Heroes in Alpharetta, a service that offers counseling and career services for veterans. She concluded by thanking those who have served our country, stating, “I lead with your sacrifices in mind.”
State Rep. Bonnie Rich then addressed those gathered, also voicing her deepest appreciation for the armed forces, before Major Mary Kreuger, senior vice commander of American Legion Post 127, delivered a message on service members and their mental health. She raised awareness by sharing that more than 22 veterans are lost to suicide every day, and urged everyone that, “We need to check on our fellow man.” She also made a point to state, “If you know of someone that is in crisis, please use the crisis line. It’s 1-800-273-8255.”
Sandy Tomey of the Suwanee Creek chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution spoke next, voicing her respect for all veterans and inviting the community to the wreath-laying ceremony in the City of Sugar Hill cemetery on Thursday, Dec. 18. She was followed by Kathryn Baskin of the Sugar Hill Historic Preservation Society who read the 18 most recent names to be added to the memorial’s bricks.
A memorial stone from the Veterans Administration was then unveiled honoring Morris Isaac Bergman, the son of Jewish immigrants from Europe who served in the Army during World War II before relocating to Sugar Hill. City council member Cohen spoke on being the son of a Jewish war veteran and what an honor it was to recognize Bergman’s contributions with the memorial stone. He also delivered a mixed English and Hebrew prayer to honor the deceased veteran.
The event concluded with a wreath ceremony and music by the Broadstreet Band. Afterward, city officials and Bourdeaux remained to talk with veterans and members of the community, with Bourdeaux remarking that, “Sugar Hill does a wonderful job of honoring our veterans, and it’s a pleasure to be with the community today.”