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Rotary salutes Veterans

By Matt Debnam, Avery Journal-Times

Following a pair of ceremonies held at Avery County High School and the Avery Senior Center on Nov. 4, Avery County veterans were honored once more on Nov. 11, as approximately 120 people filled the Chapman Center of the Williams YMCA for the Avery County Rotary Club’s 2nd Annual Veteran’s Day Celebration.

As veterans and their family members arrived, each found a place at one of the many tables decorated with American flags and tea lights. Sitting on the table in front of each seat, an American flag pin donated by Lees-McRae College awaited each guest as a special “thank you” from the school.

With everyone settled into their seats, Rotarian Larry Hazen, who served as the organizer of the event, greeted the assembled vets and offered them thanks for their service to our nation.

Hazen’s speech was followed by a speech from Avery County Rotary Club President DeLee Scott on the important work Rotary is doing in our community and around the world. From local action, such as volunteering at Healthy Halloween and adopting a highway, to international efforts to eradicate Polio and Alzheimer’s, Scott shared information on the various ways Rotary works to serve humanity. A veteran himself, Scott drew parallels between the attitude of service and the sense of camaraderie shared by veterans and Rotarians.

As Scott concluded, his speech gave way to a presentation of colors by the Avery County High School JROTC, a rendition of the national anthem and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance by Avery County Coroner John Millan.

Following a prayer from Avery County Schools Superintendent David Burleson, vets lined up for a meal served by Carolina BBQ, followed by desserts provided by Medi-Home Hospice. As those assembled ate heartily, Hazen returned to the podium to introduce the event’s keynote speaker, Retired Army Major General John A. Yingling.

Yingling, whose family has a long history of military service, began as an Army JROTC cadet at Wake Forest University before serving 35 years in the U.S. Army. The retired general’s speech was well received by those assembled.

“In 1950, and forever more, Veteran’s Day recognizes all of those veterans who paid the last full measure of devotion to their country, and to those who have served and who are still serving today,” Yingling said.

The major general went on to tell those assembled that the military is currently comprised of volunteers who represent only one percent of the nation’s population. Yingling also warned against recent trends of using the military as a catalyst for social change, before speaking on the things that make veterans extraordinary.

“I have heard the veteran described as an ordinary, yet extraordinary human being;” Yingling said. “A person who offered some of their life’s most vital years in the service of our country and who sacrificed their ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs. Veterans come from all walks of life and from every corner of this great land. They are fathers, sons, mothers and daughters. They are members of our family, friends and neighbors. They are ordinary until asked to make extraordinary sacrifices for their country.”

As Yingling finished his speech, attendees heard from Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, who pledged her enduring support of veterans and their issues as she continues her work in the U.S. House of Representatives during her next term. Foxx also mentioned that she was looking forward to becoming Avery County’s representative in January.

The final speaker of the day was Mike Halus, who shared information on Disabled American Veterans, inviting veterans to attend the organization’s Open House on Nov. 12.

Major sponsors of the event included Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, which donated $1,000 to cover the cost of the food. Children’s Hope Alliance donated all printed materials for event, including posters and invitation. Williams YMCA hosted the event, while Carolina BBQ catered food and Medi-home Hospice prepared desserts. Flag pins were donated by Lees-McRae College.

As veterans left the event, each hopefully went home with a sense that their service and sacrifices are appreciated by the people of Avery County. As we go through the coming year, remember that veterans should not only be thanked on Veteran’s Day and those who fell should not just be remembered on Memorial Day. Rather, remember and honor their sacrifices throughout the year, whether with a thanks for their service or a thought for their care.

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