Sandy Springs celebrated Veterans Day Nov. 10 with a ceremony marked by calls for unity and service in a time of polarized politics.

The city’s eighth annual Veterans Day Tribute was likely the last to be held at the Concourse Center, as officials plan to move it to the new City Springs civic center set to open next year. The future park across Roswell Road from City Springs, on the so-called triangle, may include flags and some type of veterans monument, said City Manager John McDonough, who is also a Marine Corps veteran.

Hunter Hill speaks at the Sandy Springs Veterans Day Tribute Nov. 10 at the Concourse Center, while Mayor Rusty Paul looks on. (John Ruch)

The keynote speaker was Hunter Hill, an Army Ranger combat veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who formerly served as a local state senator and is now running for governor. His current campaign was not mentioned by anyone during the Veterans Day ceremony.

Hill described the sense of sacrifice, service and unity he experienced in the Army. “This is what we are lacking in today’s society,” he said.

To truly honor those who have served in the military, Hill said, people should read the Constitution, become engaged in democratic politics, vote and hire veterans.

The color guard of Sandy Springs Police officers, arrives at the ceremony. (John Ruch)

Those are all important, he said, “because America is not land or treasure. America is an idea, an idea that liberty and justice should be available to all people and that all citizens should be entrusted to govern themselves.”

Those ideas were echoed by John Pruitt, the former WSB-TV new anchor and Sandy Springs resident, who acted as master of ceremonies.

“There are many ways to serve that are not military,” he said.

Many residents and veterans attended, as did U.S. Rep. Karen Handel and Takashi “Thomas” Shinozuka, the consul general of Japan in Atlanta. All incumbent members of the City Council attended, including John Paulson, a Marine Corps veteran who also heads a veterans service organization called the Phoenix Patriot Foundation.

Attendees join in the Pledge of Allegiance. (John Ruch)

“This is a very important moment in which we pause to honor our veterans, those who are here today and those who cannot [attend],” Handel said after the ceremony, adding that Hill was “spot-on” in calling for people to take local leadership roles.

Mayor Rusty Paul not only gave an introduction, but also sang the national anthem.

The event had heavy attendance by Sandy Springs Police officers, who also provide the ceremony’s color guard. Hill mentioned the many threats police officers face, including “homegrown terrorists,” and said, “Let’s all make sure we back the blue.” Police Chief Ken DeSimone, a Marine Corps veteran, afterward thanked Hill, who replied that it seems the country is “expecting more and more from police on protection … and making it harder for them” to do the job.

Photos by John Ruch.