By CHRIS MORRIS
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
Master Sgt. George Ott has been in the military for 33 years, five years on active duty and 28 years in the Army Reserves. He has been deployed twice to Afghanistan.
As an employee of Fort Knox, Ott had the day off Monday for Veterans Day. But instead of sitting around the house or visiting an area shopping mall, Ott was in full uniform at the New Albany Veterans Day ceremony at the Veterans Plaza along Market Street Monday. He was there not for himself, but to salute older veterans who paved the way for him.
“I was talking to a 92-year-old man who served under General Patton. Those are the guys who went to hell and back,” he said. “The equipment we have now is so much better than what they had. We go overseas on a jet, they had to go over on ships.”
The annual event Monday was full of pageantry, including a firing gun salute, patriotic music and speakers who praised veterans, young and old, for their service.
“This is a day we celebrate all veterans,” said VFW 1693 Commander Jim Dexter.
New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan encouraged veterans to tell others their stories so we can all be reminded on a daily basis of the sacrifices they endured.
“Don’t forget to share your stories so we can all share in the pride,” Gahan said.
Both Dexter and Ott said they were pleased with the turnout, but would like to have seen more school-age children at the event. Dexter said he wished schools would close on Veterans Day.
“Unfortunately most people have zero knowledge about the military. They take everything for granted,” Ott said.
State Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, told the crowd we should never forget those who served, but we must also be aware of the issues many veterans deal with on a daily basis. He said homelessness and mental health are two issues many veterans battle with years after leaving the military.
“For many veterans the war is never over,” Clere said. “In Indiana, in all 92 counties, homelessness among veterans has increased 12 percent year after year. Always take time to honor vets but we pledge to fight alongside them here on the homefront.”
Both the VFW 1693 and Bonnie Sloan American Legion Post 28 held dinners Monday evening for veterans.