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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Today our country celebrated the men and women who have served and sacrificed to protect our freedom. The New Hanover County Veterans Council organized a couple of ceremonies here in the Port City.

The reasons why they serve may vary from person to person.

“I served because I felt it was my duty,” Air Force veteran Rusty McIntosh said. “I served because I had friends who also served.”

But every veteran deserves thanks. Folks gathered at the Wilmington National Cemetery to do just that.

Today veterans from different branches of the military gathered for a common purpose: to celebrate and remember each other’s service. They say above all, serving in the military means making a lot of difficult sacrifices.

“When we joined the military, we basically gave the government a blank check,” Navy veteran Joe Stanley said. “It said paid in full with our life. That’s what we would do.”

But most veterans say they would not trade their time in the military for anything. Those years built character.

“My service was an experience,” McIntosh said. “It helped make me what I am today. It helped make me a man.”

The crowd continued celebrating veterans at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for the massing of the colors. It’s a presentation that uses flags to honor the colors of the United States.

Veterans say it takes a special person to serve in the military and a special family to stay supportive.

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