(Editor's note to online readers: This column makes reference to a special section inserted in Sunday's print editions. There also is a version on oanow.com today, and the print section will be added to the E-edition.)

*****

It’s long been said that the men and women of the United States Armed Forces represent the best of America.

Count us as believers.

When the Opelika-Auburn News in August began advertising for submissions to nominate living veterans for a special section that is inserted in today's Sunday edition, we were amazed with great admiration at the steady flow of impressive mini-biographies that continued to fill our inboxes.

Further, we are convinced that from them, we still are seeing only a small sampling of the high volume of decorated veterans who live within our coverage area of east Alabama. There is much honor and pride among us for those serving or having served our nation, and deservedly so.

We could only include a few of the many in today's special section, but our salute goes to all veterans.

Also of note is the tribute that must go to those who have served but already have passed, many killed in action. Memorial Day is another special day to honor their service.

Veterans Day, which we recognize today, was established after World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It reminds us of the tremendous sacrifice our veterans and active-duty service men and women make to protect our freedoms and defend our nation.

They come from all types of creed and color, from rich and poor, from rural and urban backgrounds.

Many local heroes

Take these brief snapshots, for example, which are included in today's special section:

--Ambers Hanson, 95, is the last surviving member of his World War II B-17 bomber crew.

--Malcolm “Buck” Marsh Jr., World War II, Auburn University Class of ’49, earned a Purple Heart in the Battle of the Bulge.

--Marcus Moreman, 90, who joined Army at 16 after World War II, served during Korea, 62 helicopter combat assaults during Vietnam, then came home to be mayor of Waverly.

--Robert Bradshaw, flew 100 missions into North Vietnam and 13 nuclear-alert missions worldwide.

--James Alan Norwood, combat platoon leader in Vietnam who has spent the last 12 years teaching at AU.

--James Lacy, earned a bachelor’s and later a Ph.D at Auburn, went on to serve in the Pentagon and earned the Bronze Star in Vietnam.

--Kyle Venable, Marine gunny sergeant who served three combat tours in Iraq-Afghanistan and works with veterans at AU now.

--Michael Horsefield, son of a Navy pilot, AU Class of ’85, flew 71 combat missions.

--Amber Grant, three deployments and now at AU at Veterans Resource Center.

--The highly decorated Orrin "Boody" Brown, Bennie Adkins and retired three-star general Ronald Burgess, all with Opelika roots.

Best of the best

They truly do represent the best of our country, and the best of home.

Thank you, veterans, all of you. You earn a salute.

God bless America, and He did, with you.

Troy Turner is editor of the Opelika-Auburn News. He can be contacted at tturner@oanow.com and followed on Twitter @troyturnernews.

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Troy Turner is editor of the Opelika-Auburn News. He previously served as the news editor in New York for the nation's second largest newspaper company, and as the senior editor at several other news entities around the nation. He is an Auburn alum.

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