Charles Wilson, a veteran of combat in the Vietnam War, spoke in 2019 at the First Baptist Christian School’s Veterans Day ceremony, recounting how he had gone off to war with three teenaged friends from Apalachicola, and another man from Port St. Joe.
He did so again on Thursday. Nov. 11 and this time he went further than the tunnels where he detonated explosive laid by the enemy.
This time, his words shook the rafters, as he addressed the spiritual fight that took place in the hearts of families back home, such as in the prayers of his grandmother Ola Turner.
‘They would walk by grandma’s house and hear her praying all the way down the street,” he told the audience that filled the sanctuary. “Her prayers got attention in heaven, I’m living proof of it today.”
The First Baptist program was one of two held on Nov. 11, the latter at the foot of the St. George Island Lighthouse at 11 a.m., the traditional moment when the armistice was struck ending World War I.
The First Baptist ceremony once again featured students, from Kindergartners up through seniors, any in red, white and blue caps that embodied the spirit of the day.
The First Baptist ceremony blended patriotic songs and recitations by the students with those, such as the singing of “The Lord’s Army” that bespoke the service to God that underlines the veterans’ commitment.
“We’re at war today, not a physical war, it’s a spiritual war,” said Wilson. “Everywhere you turn it seems like evil’s on a rampage.
“My God is still alive and well,” he said, in the cadence of a preacher. “We need to know we’re serving God. We have probably the greatest military on the planet, but my faith is not in Washington, D.C. My faith is in my savior.”
Led by Principal Carline Kembro and Pastor Jeff Strickland, the service was assisted with audio-visuals above the altar, and concluded with the singing of “God Bless America.”
Gordon Adkin sang the same song to close out the island’s Veterans Day program, which opened with the first appearance at such a program by the newly-formed Franklin County High School JROTC Color Guard.
Air Force Col. Christopher Anderson emceed the program, which included introductions by Air Force veteran and island resident Bob Heide. Mike Whaley, pastor of the island’s First Baptist Church, offered both the invocation and benediction.
Because the retired Air Force major general slated to speak was grounded by weather, the keynote address was given by retired Army Major Gen. James Donald, an island resident. Donald, who stepped in an hour before the program was set to begin, offered an impassioned speech about the role of the veterans in embracing military service and ensuring the nation’s freedoms.
Afterwards, all guests were treated to a full lunch, complete with cake.
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