American flag

Veterans Day is coming up this weekend, and a pair of ceremonies are being held at memorials in Cedartown and Rockmart to honor the service of those who have stood at guard in the United States’ armed forces.

While local offices are set to be closed — like the City of Aragon, for instance — the pair of ceremonies in Polk County will be held at the same time on Nov. 11, marking the end of the first World War in 1918, when Armistice Day was previously celebrated.

It became Veterans Day in 1954, and this year is the 99th time the country has celebrated the event.

Rockmart’s Veterans Day ceremony put together by the American Legion Post 12 will be held at 11 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial in downtown Rockmart behind the Rockmart History Museum on Marble Street.

This year’s guest speaker is Chick-fil-A owner and veteran Zach Thomas.

Thomas graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and served his country as an Airborne Ranger Infantry Officer.

He has started multiple companies and been featured in Newsweek Magazine and on Good Morning America.

He married his high school sweetheart and they home school their six children on their family farm where he grew up. His varied interests include studying leadership and entrepreneurship, farming, riding his Harley, working on old cars with his son and dad, camping and spending time with his family.

He is currently the Owner/Operator of a Chick-fil-A franchise and serves as an Operator Coach for new franchisees for Chick-fil-A Inc. He serves on the board of Life Impact, a nonprofit ministry, where he volunteers his time to coach Christian Vetpreneurs (Military Veteran Entrepreneurs). To sponsor a Veteran submit your request to Life Impact. He also serves on Congressman Tom Graves’ Service Academy Selection Board.

In Cedartown, the Veterans Memorial Park will again provide the setting for the annual Veterans Day ceremony.

It will take place on Veterans Day at 11 a.m. and will feature Cedartown native United States Navy (Ret.) Command Master Chief Wade D. Willingham.

Willingham is the son of the late Rev. Monroe Willingham and Myrtice Willingham. He entered the service in 1964 after graduating from high school.

He is a graduate of the Navy Senior Enlisted Academy in Newport, RI. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Saint Leo University and a master of science degree in education leadership from Old Dominion University.

Command Master Chief Willingham’s 31-year Navy career spanned service in the Surface Navy on board USS Semmes (DDG 18), USS Forrest Royal (DD 872), USS Scott (DDG 995) and USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), the Amphibious Navy on board the USS Francis Marion (LPA 249), and a tour as a seamanship/amphibious operations instructor at Navy Amphibious School in Little Creek, Virginia. He served the Support Navy on board the USS Milwaukee (AOR 2), and a tour as a seamanship instructor and battalion chief at Navy Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. Command Master Chief Willingham’s last tour of duty was the Command Master Chief of Naval Station Norfolk, “The World’s Largest Naval Station.” He retired from the Navy in July 1995.

Command Master Chief Willingham’s awards and decorations include the Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialists Award, Command Master Chief Badge, Navy Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal (3 awards), Navy Achievement Medal (3 awards), Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Navy Unit Award, Navy Battle “E” Award (3 awards), Navy Good Conduct Award (7 awards),] National Defense Service Medal (2 awards), Southwest Asia Medal (2 awards), and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (7 awards), Marksmanship Ribbon and Sharpshooter Ribbon.

Command Master Chief Willingham began a second career as a teacher at Monterey California High School in 1995 and retired as vice principal (Discipline/Attendance) in June of 2012.

Command Master Chief Willingham and his wife, Claudette willingham, currently reside in Norfolk,Virginia.

Additionally, Cedartown is holding a Veterans Day concert at the Cedartown Performing Arts Center featuring Drew Baldridge and Hunter Phelps. Veterans will be given free admission, and all others are able to get in for $12 in advance and $16 at the door.

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