Alabaster honors veterans, retires tattered U.S. flags at ceremony

ALABASTER – As Mayor Marty Handlon welcomed guests to the city’s Veterans Day ceremony at Veterans Park on Friday, Nov. 8, she reminded everyone that the freedoms and securities that Americans value are because of the sacrifices made by others.

She shared that the city’s annual Veterans Day program started four years ago after a group of veterans asked her why the city had Veterans Park but didn’t host any events to actually celebrate veterans.

“They were absolutely right,” Handlon said. And now every year, city leaders, residents and veterans gather at Veterans Park to remember and give thanks.

A prayer was provided by Lee Martinez, pastor of Church of the Highlands in Alabaster. In addition to thanking those who served and have served, Martinez said it’s also important to recognize and thank their families because they serve as well.

Boy Scout Troop 548 led the Pledge of Allegiance, and the singing of the national anthem was done by the Sentimental Gentlemen Quartet. Handlon introduced guest speaker, Pelham Mayor Gary Waters, as someone who has always lived a life of service. Waters served three years active duty in the U.S. Army and then joined the Alabama Army National Guard from which he retired after 24 years of service. Waters was one of the first fire fighters hired when the Pelham Fire Department was formed in 1977. He rose through the ranks and retired as fire chief in 2008.

“I’m here for two reasons,” Waters said to the audience as he prepared to speak. “One is because I’m proud to be a veteran, and two, because I can’t say no to Marty Handlon.”

Waters shared that the oath that men and women take when they join the military has no expiration date.

“The oath is a lifelong commitment, and it stands regardless of the politics or who is in office,” he said. “That’s why you’ll hardly ever hear a veteran speak negatively about a president. It doesn’t matter if you agree or not – that’s your president.”

Waters also urged attendees to be kind to veterans and others because “kindness pays off in dividends that you may never know.”

The program concluded with a flag retirement conducted by Boy Scout Troop 548, during which troop members placed folded tattered or damaged U.S. flags into a fire pit.

“We are blessed with freedom and security in the greatest nation on earth,” Handlon said. “Thank you all and be blessed.”