Local News

Ahead of 9/11 anniversary, veterans come together in Durham for special luncheon

Posted September 10, 2016 7:45 p.m. EDT
Updated August 28, 2021 9:05 p.m. EDT

— One day before the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, veterans and service members from several generations came together in Durham to be honored.

The Friendly City Civitan and the Greater Durham Moose Lodge hosted the veterans appreciation luncheon, and dozens of veterans from numersous conflicts made appearances.

They ranged in age from 22 to 103 years old, but they said they are united by a timeless sense of duty and patriotism.

Jerry Smith was working for a lumber company in Kinston when Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, killing more than 2,000 of of his countrymen.

Within a month, Smith would be in the Navy. He says the events at Pearl Harbor compelled him to go to sea, and go to work.

"I've always said do the best you can with what you've got, and I've made it this far," Smith said.

He's made it past his 103rd birthday, the oldest living Navy Seabee, or member of the Naval Construction Force.

Other veterans in the room Saturday remember another infamous day in American history, Sept. 11.

"I remember I was sitting in school and they had announced the planes had hit the towers," Pvt. 1st Class Alexandria Pippen said.

Pippen was 7 years old in 2001. Her parents were in the Navy, and Pippen said the 9/11 attacks compelled her to join the Army.

"To be honest, I thought the Army was the greatest organization in the world. Why not be a part of it? I do, I love it. I love everything that I do," she said.

Pippen now serves in the Army National Guard. She said being in attendance at Saturday's ceremony was overwhelming.

"Oh my goodness, this is such a great feeling," she said. "I feel like I'm in the presence of greatness, pretty much."

Smith said the younger generation of service men and service women will allow America to rise to any challenge.

"They're carrying on what we started," Smith said.