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'If I made it through this, I can make it through anything' | Anderson Co. honors its veterans with an event where they share their stories

Anderson County recognizes its veterans with a monthly breakfast. This time two of their war heroes share words of wisdom alongside their concern about this country.

ANDERSON COUNTY, Tenn. — The monthly veterans breakfast is held every second Saturday in Clinton. Organized by the Veterans Services and the mayor's office. They gather local veterans to honor their service and recognize them and their families.

Many heroes gathered in one room and had the perfect opportunity to gather some of their wisdom. 

"I went to serve when I was 15 years old, World War II," Claude Martin said. "Then when we went through there, then the Korean War started then called back in the Korean War and the Pacific under General Douglas MacArthur."

William "Bear" Stephenson served in Vietnam. He went to training school at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Then he went to Fort Hood, Texas for seven months and was then shipped off to Vietnam. 

Stephenson was in combat engineer from 1971 to 1972.

"All the people who died and all the 58,000 names on the Vietnam wall is for naught," Stephenson said. "Because that's one war we should never have gotten involved in to start with it was an unwinnable war."

When you ask veterans about their past experiences, they often give a similar answer. 

Rarely do they go into detail about what happened when they were enlisted. 

"Oh Lord, I've forgotten everything, we don't talk too much about what really goes on," Martin said.

However, veterans are willing to share how war shaped their lives.

"This gives you self-confidence to know by golly if I made it through this, I can make it through anything," Stephenson said.

Timothy J. Kumes served in the United Air Force as a canine handler in the Northeast part of the United States and is also an instructor at Clinton High School.

He said the event Saturday was also an opportunity to share a new, more festive event in Anderson County they're preparing for Veteran's Day on Nov. 11. 

"Our town in this community, this county does a great job of celebrating veterans," Kumes said. "On that day, we have a great breakfast to start the day. We have a parade where the heroes march down Market Street and then we're looking to link that back to the community at Clinton High School and have a great carnival event. So we can remember each and every veteran that served here in this county."

Often veterans carry a patriotic spirit and their concern for America is eternal.

Stephenson said younger generations seem absorbed by technology and each American has the power to be part of change.

"I'm very concerned about America today because I was watching the news the other day, young people aren't joining the military," Stephenson said. "I know it's important for everybody to get out and vote and participate in the democratic process and let their voice be heard."

Hope is alive. After all, these veterans have seen much worse than the rest of the world.

"Oh, I'd like to see things a lot better nationwide. You know, a lot better. We need help," Martin said.

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