WARNER ROBINS -- Handmade cards from Houston County schoolchildren were spread on tables awaiting 140 World War II veterans honored Thursday during Service for Services We Will Never Forget Appreciation Luncheon.
Cards ranged from sentiments as simple as, Thank you, to Red, White and Blue and you rule, to more lengthy expressions like this one from Lucas.
Dear World War II Veteran,
Thank you for serving your country proudly. Thank you also for protecting me, your family, my family and the U.S.A. from those pesky Nazis.
Thank you soldier,
His also included an American flag drawn on the front, a camouflaged soldier drawn inside and had the added comment, You are epic!
The cards reflected the luncheons overall intent to lavish praise and appreciation on members of the greatest generation.
Participants from each Houston County high school Junior ROTC program served the veterans lunch as speeches were made.
Cadet Col. Austin Bearden, a senior at Northside High School who has plans to enter the Air Force after college, said it was an honor.
Its crazy to think these men did what they did when they were just a year or two older than I am, he said. Its extraordinary what they had to go through and fought for, and Im glad to be able to give back to them today. I cant wait to serve myself.
Male and female veterans present were officially honored through brief comments from representatives of the Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, Air Force and Army as well as by Warner Robins Mayor Chuck Shaheen and Eighth District U.S. Rep. Austin Scott.
Air Force Reserve vice commander, Maj. Gen. Craig Neil Gourley of Robins Air Force Base, spoke for the Air Force and commended the veterans for their heroism and self-sacrifice in protecting the Free World from its enemies and their ideologies in the past century. He also thanked them for their role in shaping the modern Air Force and said both politicians and senior military leaders benefited from their experience and lessons learned.
Gourley also thanked those present for accepting nothing less than victory during World War II.
Maj. Gen. Charles Hudson, commanding general, Marine Corps Logistics Command, spoke first to fellow Marines, wishing them a happy birthday on the Marines 237th anniversary, which was Saturday. He said those serving today were proud to follow in the footsteps of World War II veterans and were daily trying to live up to their example.
Scott, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told veterans of his high regard for them and of his grandfather, the late Jack Austin Scott, who flew B-17s in World War II and was shot down over the sea during a mission to Athens, Greece. He was rescued by a German boat and became a prisoner of war.
Welcoming veterans from across Georgia to Warner Robins, Shaheen told them of the citys commitment to the military and of his appreciation for their dramatic role in history. Before and after the event, Shaheen circulated among guests greeting them and having them sign his copy of Tom Brokaws book, The Greatest Generation.
Shaheen also presented keys to the city to Service for Service founder Kathryn Carver, who organizes the luncheon and other veteran activities, and to the luncheons keynote speaker, Helen Denton.
Denton was part of the Womens Army Corps in the war and served Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. She personally typed military plans, including the invasion of Germany, and after years of keeping a mandatory silence about her experiences has written a book called World War II WAC.
Another honored guest was Frank Jones, the World War II veteran who inspired Carver to begin Service for Service and hold the original luncheon. Carver met Jones during a visit to a nursing home and told him someone should do something to honor his and others service.
His response to her was, Well, do something!
I never would have imagined she would do all this, Jones said. It is really a wonderful atmosphere of appreciation for us to enjoy.
Jones served in the Army Air Corps as a crew chief for C-17s that delivered paratroopers and supplies. He said Thursdays luncheon, held at the Veterans of Foreign Wars facility off Corder Road, was the first he had been able to attend. In addition to cards and the meal, Jones and other veterans were given stars cut from retired American flags as a reminder of their service and the day, and a photograph taken and given to them by Curtis Photography.
Contact Michael W. Pannell at email@example.com.