It has been my pleasure to listen to a great many speakers over my career as a journalist, but I can think of none more riveting than that of 92-year-old Olin Pickens, a former POW who survived more than two years of captivity during World War II.
Pickens held his audience of nearly 300 spellbound as he described his capture by German officers, imprisonment, escape and recapture during that pivotal time in our nation's history.
Surviving on crusty bread and sauerkraut soup and left to freeze to death in the bitter cold, Pickens shared his faith with those in attendance at the Winn & Annie Ruth Brown Brown Veterans Appreciation Breakfast at Landers Center.
Pickens, who was captured in 1943 and released from captivity in 1945, was among more than 65 POWs from Mississippi.
Horn Lake Mayor Allen Latimer called Pickens and other veterans "the guiding light to maintaining our freedom."
This past Thursday, the DeSoto County Board of Education bestowed a high school diploma on 96-year-old K.T. Robbins, another World War II veteran who served his country when that clarion call came to defend liberty.
Pickens and Robbins are among that group of warriors who are truly "America's greatest generation."
Kudos are also in order for those who helped the City of Hernando achieve its second "Healthy Hometown Award" as one of the healthiest cities in the state.
The DeSoto County seat of Hernando was the first city or town in Mississippi to receive the designation back in 2010.
Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Mississippi officials were on hand on Friday to present the award and lead a walk around the city's historic Square.
On a personal note, this writer is deeply humbled to have been asked to sing and perform with the McKinney Family and Friends at the "Down Home Gospel Musical" a gospel concert this Sunday at 5 p.m. at Brown Baptist Church, located at 980 Stateline Road in Southaven.
The Voices of Praise, Shenna Walker, Britne Lauderdale, the Angelettes, BT Gospel Praises and Lois Curry Upton are among the performers.
I should point out that my good friend Phillis McKinney and her family have coaxed me into singing in public for the first time since I was a grade-schooler. I am honored to sing at Pastor Bartholomew Orr's church, which is a beacon of light in our community.
I should also like to note that I have recently embarked on my own personal faith journey, having stepped into the pulpit at New Bethlehem Presbyterian Church in Nesbit, one of the oldest congregations of any denomination in the county.
Having been in this community for nearly two decades now, serving our friends and neighbors in a spiritual capacity is proving to be one of the most rewarding aspects of my life.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.