New Albany • More than 3,200 luminaries lit up BNA Bank Park in New Albany on Saturday night in honor of veterans.

The luminaries lined both sides of the road leading into the park.

Local school children decorated the bags with patriotic images and messages of thanks for the veterans.

The drive-through event allowed people to see the luminaries from their vehicles, making this a safe way to honor veterans during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The luminary display was headed up by the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 72. Windy Green, a member of the auxiliary, said “it’s an honor” to do anything for the veterans.

“They basically wrote a blank check when they signed up to go into the military,” Green said. “There’s nothing I can do to compare to that.”

Donations for veterans’ programs were being accepted during the event.

When motorists entered the park, they were greeted by a large luminary display of the American flag. The New Albany Fire Department also had a large American flag hoisted in the air, and yellow ribbons were tied around lampposts.Green said the goal was to lift the veterans’ spirits.

“I hope we have a great turnout I really do,” Green said. “I think it’s going to be gorgeous.”

Volunteers worked throughout the day to prepare for the event by filling the luminary bags with sand and then lighting them. Putting everything together for the event was a big undertaking, she noted.

Green said the schoolchildren did a great job decorating the luminary bags, saying some of them were “absolutely precious.”

Patriotic music played on WNAU AM as people drove through the luminary display.

Connie Kelly with the American Legion Auxiliary said local schools did not get to have their normal Veterans Day programs this year due to the coronavirus. Therefore, the luminary display was held to honor the veterans. Kelly said she hopes the luminary display turns out to be one of the best tributes to veterans to ever happen in Union County.

Kelly said the auxiliary wanted to do something to show the veterans how much they are appreciated for the sacrifices they made for the country. If veterans are not honored, patriotism is going to be lost, she added.

Ray Tate, who served in the Mississippi Army National Guard for over 25 years, said he thinks the luminaries were a fitting way to honor the veterans.

“We need to really honor veterans now,” Tate said. “I’m 100 percent behind the veterans. I think it’s a wonderful thing.”

U.S. Army veteran Gary Wack said it was “fantastic” that the auxiliary set up the luminary event as a way to give back to veterans. He thinks a lot of veterans will appreciate the luminaries because it lets them know they are cared about.

U.S. Army veteran John Ingle said he thought the luminaries were really nice. It makes him feel good that the veterans are being honored, saying the soldiers were not respected much after Vietnam.

Ingle also said the children did a great job decorating the luminary bags and that it is good that the youth are being taught about the importance of veterans.

“I love this country,” said Ingle.

Windy Green with the American Legion Auxiliary said, “I’m just glad it came together.”

Green noted that her grandfather was in World War II and her dad was in the Navy Reserve. They have both passed away, and Green said, “I wish they could be here.”

She said she hopes the veterans realize that no matter what is going on in the world that patriotism is supported in New Albany.“This community supports patriotism like no other community I’ve seen,” Green said. “It’s amazing and makes me proud to live here.”

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