Gilmer will pay early tribute to veterans Nov. 10
In what has become tradition for many military and nonmilitary Gilmer Countians, a heartfelt “thank you” will be said next week to all veterans and service people with a number of events on or before Veterans Day.
Observed Nov. 11, Veterans Day falls on a Saturday this year. All downtown Ellijay events, as well as a veterans lunch at the Lions Club, will take place Friday, Nov. 10.
“According to protocol, anytime Veterans Day falls on a weekend it’s celebrated on the Friday before,” said Sam Burrell, organizer of the downtown Ellijay veterans parade and honorary program.
The parade will begin the day’s events at 10:30 a.m. Assembly for parade participants will be from 8:30-10 a.m. at Ellijay First United Methodist Church, 75 McCutchen St. Breakfast will be served to veterans at the church during that time.
Burrell said he appreciates it if anyone wishing to march in the parade lets him know prior to the day of the event.
Immediately following the parade, an honorary program will be held around the downtown square in front of the courthouse. The theme for this year’s program is “All Gave Some, Some Gave All,” Burrell said.
Georgia House Speaker and Gilmer County native David Ralston is this year’s special guest. The Gilmer High School Marching band will be on hand to band will perform “America the Beautiful” and Veterans Day essay contest winners from local schools will be announced.
Local veterans are welcome to volunteer to speak in the county’s schools, Burrell said.
“They really enjoy telling (their stories) and they speak mostly in the elementary and middle schools. The presence of our veterans in the schools is a great way to keep the spirit of Veterans Day alive. They can contact me directly and I will call the schools,” Burrell said. “Some of them may also have ideas on how to enhance the parade or may be able to assist with setup and preparation. We need the help.”
Granberry is grand marshal
This year’s parade grand marshal is Bill Granberry, a 29-year resident of Gilmer County who served in the U.S. Navy from 1959-1967. Most of those years were spent aboard submarines, Granberry said.
“I spent eight years in the submarine force. I was either in schools or on subs,” he confirmed.
The first sub Granberry rode was the U.S.S. Odax, a diesel-electric powered submarine that, in 1960, took its crew through 19 ports including Puerto Rico, Jamaica, then eventually around South America and across the equator.
Later, he operated reactors on nuclear-powered subs.
“I transferred to the U.S.S. Shark in Norfolk and was on it for two years. I went to a nuclear plant refresher course just out of Pittsburgh, then onto the new construction of the U.S.S. Sam Rayburn. It was a nuclear (powered) ballistic missile submarine. I made the initial reactor startup on that submarine. I ran the reactor, which was the main power source,” he said.
Being on the crew of a nuclear sub meant staying underwater for 72 days straight. Not being claustrophobic definitely helped, Granberry said.
“I was not claustrophobic at all because I used to go in caves and places like that when I was a kid,” he remembered.
One morning, Granberry went to bed in the early hours with severe stomach pain. The next day, an urgent cable telegram arrived.
“I was 500 miles out at sea on my way back from the South America cruise. Early Saturday morning, I doubled over with stomach cramps like you wouldn’t believe. The next morning, I received a cable gram saying I had a baby boy” he remembered.
Granberry, 77, said he’s excited about being chosen to be grand marshal, which also includes helping place a wreath of honor at the Veterans Memorial on the downtown square.
Lions Club lunch to follow
A barbecue lunch for all veterans, servicemen and women and family members will take place at the Ellijay Lions Club, 1729 South Main St., immediately following the downtown program.
The free lunch typically draws anywhere from 350 to 400 people to the Lions Barn, said Burrell, a retired Air Force master sergeant now in his 27th year organizing and emceeing the local Veterans Day events.
“It’s amazing the amount of stuff (we have to pull together), from just simple things like getting a stage or getting speakers. We try to mix it up and do as much as we can,” he said.
“At this trying time in our nation’s history, I encourage all veterans to participate in some way to show our strength and unity not only to our nation, but to the many young people who will be observing our celebration,” Burrell added.
Rotary Club veterans dinner Nov. 9
The Gilmer Rotary Club will host a free veterans appreciation dinner Thursday, Nov. 9, at the fellowship hall of Ellijay First Baptist Church, 164 Dalton St.
The function will start at 6 p.m., but guests are welcome to arrive early for fellowship, said Gilmer Rotary treasurer Charlie Pults.
“We’ll be ready for folks about 5 or 5:30 p.m.,” Pults added.
This will be the ninth year the club has presented the complimentary meal for any veteran or military serviceperson and a spouse or guest. Pot roast, mashed potatoes, green beans and dessert will be served, Pults said.
“We’ll feed about 320 people, and we have a good time doing it,” he confirmed. “We couldn’t do it without all the help we get. It takes all the Rotarians and help from the Scouts, the Civil Air Patrol (and many others). They show up and we put them to work!”