SPRING LAKE, N.C. ­— Soldiers of 1st Sustainment Command (Theater) participated in the Spring Lake, North Carolina Heroes Homecoming and Candlelight Walk, Nov. 4.

Command Sgt. Maj. Edward Bell, 1st TSC command sergeant major, joined the city’s mayor Chris V. Rey as the keynote speaker for the ceremony that honored World War II veteran and Spring Lake native, Howard Pate and all veterans of foreign wars.

“It is an honor and a privilege to have been invited here today to be a part of this great event to recognize our World War II veterans, also known as America’s Greatest Generation,” said Bell. “A Soldier like myself has been on Fort Bragg for quite a few years and have come to realize that many of our Soldiers and Families are really part of the surrounding communities,” Bell added.

“It has been said that the World War II generation persevered through difficult times of war and peace and ultimately made the U.S. a better place and earned them the title of the Greatest Generation,” said Samuel L. Jones, Spring Lake Recreation and Parks director and a retired Army sergeant major.

“They were born and reared in a time marked by war and economic depression, yet they developed personal responsibility, duty, honor and faith. Every stage of their lives was part of historic challenges and achievements.”

With these words, the Spring Lake community welcomed Pate, to be this year’s honorary guest.

“Mr. Pate is the personification of the town of Spring Lake and has been here his whole life,” said Jones. “When the town was established in 1951, he was the postmaster here.”

Jones went on to explain that regardless of all of Pate’s achievements over the years, these are not the things that define him.

“He’s humble and is always willing to take a moment to share his personal experiences with members of the community,” said Jones. “Just having the opportunity to meet with fellow citizens of his caliber and wealth of knowledge is what makes this a great community.”

Pate joined the Army when he was 18 years old in July 1944, while his father was stationed overseas serving in Italy. He served in Europe with the 101st Airborne Division and was discharged from active duty in 1946. He went on to serve in the Army National Guard and Reserves until retiring after 21 years of service to his country in 1965.

Pate used his GI Bill and returned to school to earn a bachelor of science degree from North Carolina State University in 1970. He authored several books and has served as the town historian since 1994.

Pate held the position of Spring Lake postmaster from 1951 to 1982 and is now a trustee at the First Presbyterian Church.

“Staying connected to the community is absolutely important. We as citizen Soldiers not only serve our nation, but more importantly, we serve our communities,” said Bell. “We can’t exist as the world’s greatest all-volunteer force without their support.”