NEOSHO, Mo. — A local man is honored for his heroism as part of an early Veterans Day ceremony.

“It’s kinda like a testimony, in other words — God help me, I made it back,” said Sergeant First Class Jerry Wininger.

He served in the military for just over 20-years. Four in the Marine Corps. — and 17 in the National Guard. He was awarded with a Purple Heart due to his courageous efforts in Vietnam — and Operation Harvest Moon.

“December 18th, 1965 we was on Operation Harvest Moon, for about 11 days we were out in the jungle, looking for the enemy to kill. We got ambushed by the enemy, I got shot in the left shoulder and the left leg,” he recalled.

But that didn’t stop him from protecting his fellow servicemen. Wininger reflected on the moments leading up to his injury.

“We knew we was going out but you never know where you’re going and I said, ‘I sure dread going out tomorrow’, and he (my friend) says, ‘No I want to go, I got a score to settle.”

He credits his mother — as well as his Lord and Savior — for getting him home.

“I feel like God protected me and brought me back. Like I said earlier, my momma was home praying for me and it worked,” he said.

The ceremony was held at the Newton County Courthouse — and also featured Junior ROTC students from Neosho High School — who took time to honor our country’s POWs.

“We just want to make sure that every veteran knows that we deeply appreciate their sacrifice in life of what they have done for our country, and we are here for them. If anything happens we want them to know, we are here for them,” said Daniel Swem, Newton County Presiding Commissioner.

City officials say this is just the start of their Veteran’s Day celebration — with more events to come this weekend.