HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Hundreds gathered in Downtown Hattiesburg to observe the 29th annual Veterans Day Service at Veterans Memorial Park, Nov. 11. <br /> <br /> Welcomed by Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree and Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center Installation Commander Col. Steve Parham, spectators cheered as local high schools, civic organizations, veterans groups and the University of Southern Mississippi’s Pride of Southern Mississippi marching band paraded down Hardy Street to honor America’s military men and women, past and present.<br /> <br /> “It’s overwhelming to see such a large crowd come out to celebrate this wonderful day in support of our veterans,” said Parham. “It’s an honor and a privilege for me to be here today to extend a warm welcome from Camp Shelby on behalf of Maj. Gen. William L. Freeman, our state Adjutant General.”<br /> <br /> Parham encouraged everyone to remember our military men and women not only during the Veterans Day observances, but also during the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons.<br /> <br /> “Even as we speak, our service men and women are in harm’s way, defending freedom from those who don’t like our way of life,” said Parham, “Soon we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving and as we give thanks for our blessings, let’s not forget to give thanks for our freedom and the veterans, past and present, who made and continue to make it possible.” <br /> <br /> Special guests included Congressman Steven Palazzo, introduced by USM Senior Associate Athletic Director Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Jeff Hammond.<br /> <br /> “This is the spirit that makes this area such a great place to live, work, raise a family and retire in,” said Palazzo, speaking to the gathered crowd. “As your congressman, I’m truly honored to be here today, but what makes that honor even greater is to be here as a Marine veteran.”<br /> <br /> Palazzo, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve from 1989 to 1996, and currently serves in the Mississippi Army National Guard in addition to his responsibilities as congressman for Mississippi’s 4th District, said that our military veterans, past and present, all leave their mark on America and the next generation.<br /> <br /> “I’ve seen this as I visited our Mississippi troops in Afghanistan on Memorial Day,” said Palazzo, “and those 18 to 24 year-olds on their second, third and fourth tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan have the same selfless commitment to serve their nation as any other generation.”<br /> <br /> Veterans Day is observed annually, Nov. 11, as a national tribute to all American service men and women, past and present, and began as a commemoration of Armistice Day, to remember the end of “the war to end all wars” that ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.