Richmond County veterans and their friends and family gathered at Richmond County Hospice on U.S. Highway 1 in Rockingham for a memorable celebration on Friday.
As folks signed in, they received flags, pins and programs. Seating arrangements outside allowed everyone to enjoy the warm sunshine as the event began.
At 11 a.m. sharp, in true military fashion, a C-130 airplane flew overhead and the MC, the first of the Golden Knights U.S. Army parachute team, could be seen 10,000 feet in the air leaving the aircraft. Trailing red smoke and a POW/MIA flag, the soldier parachuted down into the event as “God Bless America” played over speakers.
Upon landing, the soldier took the microphone and explained the process as six more jumpers exited the C-130.
The 82nd Airborne Division “All American” band, lead by Commander CW2 Joseph Newby, played a variety of patriotic tunes, including the National Anthem, march songs of each individual branch of the military, and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”
Sponsors were recognized and the guest speaker of the event was introduced by Hospice Executive Director Mary Ellen Shea.
Guest speaker Major Michael Chagaris, Commander of Charlie Company - 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group (A), spoke to the veterans and other folks gathered.
“I’m honored that you’ve taken the time to share this day with us,” said Chagaris, who spoke about the veterans who are alive today and the conflicts they witnessed. He said they secured the future for the world through those conflicts and “lesser known operations.”
“Join me in showing them the greatest honor,” said Chagaris, who then read the poem “In Former Song” by poet Walt Whitman.
Chaplain Shannon Leviner lead a prayer, which was followed by lunch. Veterans were served first from the barbecue, fried chicken, baked beans and slaw and could choose from red, white and blue cupcakes as well as cake. Active duty members volunteered to serve food, and one of the army wives baked cakes which were decorated with the seal of each military branch.
In-kind donors included the 82nd Airborne Division “All American” band, Big KLP Gas Company, Faith Free Will Baptist Church, Freedom Baptist Church, First Health EMS, Heritage Baptist Church, Linda McDonald, Marks Creek Presbyterian Church, Outreach for Jesus, Pastor Scott Conner, Pastor Steve Crews, Pee Dee Baptist Association, Pepsi-Cola bottling Ventures, Richmond County Memorial Park, Specialist Zackary and Ann Schenk, Under His Grace, U.S. Army Parachute Team “Golden Knights,” volunteer active duty soldiers from the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, Special Warfare Training Group (A) and Watson-King Funeral Home.
This Sunday is Veterans Day.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.