Veterans honored in annual Rotary Club luncheon

Veterans honored in annual Rotary Club luncheon

By Jeremy Foster North Georgia News Staff Writer

On Friday, Nov. 11, the Union County Rotary Club held a special luncheon inside the Union County Community Center to honor the country’s valued military servicemembers for Veterans Day.

The second annual observance began with a welcome from Rotary Club President Richard Raborn, who recounted the pertinence of the Rotary motto of “Service Above Self” and introduced the Master of Ceremonies, Navy Veteran Gene Windham. “I have spoken in front of many groups in my career, but I have never been more humbled to speak to a group than I am this group of veterans heretoday,” Windham said. “I can’ttell you how much I appreciate your service to our countryand the sacrifices that all ofyou have made in one form oranother.

“Veterans Day is anopportunity to honor those thathave served the country in anyway and in any of the military services. This was a chance for us to honor the veterans that have protected our freedoms, and I am honored to have been one of those who served.

“So, (helping to organize this event) was a work of love for me, and I am passionate about it, and we are going to continue to do this and make this an annual event for our veterans.”

An invocation was offered by Pastor David Wesche of the All-Saints Lutheran Church: “I thank God for the invitation to be here with you all to celebrate you and what God has done through you for the freedoms that we have not only today, not only yesterday, but into the future.”

 The Honor Guard Presented the Colors, and Windham led the Pledge of Allegiance, with the National Anthem being performed by Richard Hoibraten before an honoring of the Missing Man Table by Patricia Kenny signifying fallen heroes who never returned home from war.

 A brief message was delivered by local photographer Paul McCullough from Honor Flight of Middle Tennessee: “Although I am not a veteran, I am honored and thank you all for letting me be involved and for your gracious service to our country.”

Ed Crenshaw, commander of Navy Seabee Veterans of America Island X-3 and the Secretary of the Veterans Commanders Group, gave a short recognition of all veterans in attendance and the members of various veteran-based groups and organizations.

Rob Mawyer of the Appalachian Veterans Memorial Park Project then stepped up to announce the hope that the park would be opening in Meeks Park on Veterans Day 2023. For more information and to donate to the cause, visit www.appalachian

There was then a break for the buffet food service, and after everyone ate, Blairsville Union County Chamber of Commerce President Steve Rowe manned the podium to share some thoughts before announcing the day’s keynote speaker.

“The chamber is very glad to be a part of this because we appreciate our veterans,” Rowe said. “It is one of our beliefs that our great country is built on these veterans, as my father was in the Korean War.

“Quite honestly, I’m just honored; if you look around, you will see that a lot of our veterans are aging, and so it is nice to be able to celebrate what they’ve done. It’s good to see everybody come together, and it’s all about the veterans, it’s all about the country.

“There is no divide here. It’s a united force of all the branches of services being recognized here, and it is truly amazing to have the community here to support these veterans and tell them ‘Thank You.’”

Rowe welcomed keynote speaker, Maj. Gen. Thomas M. Carden Jr., the currently presiding Adjutant General of the Georgia Department of Defense, which is over the Georgia National Guard.

Local dignitaries with keynote speaker Maj. Gen. Thomas M. Carden Jr., second from right,during the Nov. 11 Rotary Club Veterans Luncheon.

Appointed to his post by Gov. Brian Kemp in January 2019, Carden is “responsible for directing, coordinating, organizing and stationing the Army and Air National Guards of the State of Georgia, the Georgia State Defense Force, and federal and state civilians, ensuring their readiness to perform state and national missions.”

“The turnout that we have here today shows a lot about our community and the support we have for our veterans,” Carden said. “I also want to take time to thank the families of veterans as well

“When I go through airports and different places and people recognize someone as a veteran and tell them, ‘Thank you for your service, ’it’s great, but no one recognizes the families for what they’ve done and sacrificed, like the birthdays that have been missed and the first steps of a child.”

Local veterans Presented the Colors in Friday’s Veterans Luncheon at the Community Center.

Added Carden, “As I go and visit many places, I can tell that this is an exceptional community for taking care of and supporting our veterans.”

Carden reiterated tha the was humbled to be in the presence of every veteran before him, on top of being honored to have served himself, and he thanked everyone for being there that day and sharing freedoms together.

Maj. Gen. Carden closed the ceremony by recognizing the oldest veteran in attendance,100-year-old Sgt. Jimmy Lewis of the Army Air Corps during World War II. He presented Lewis with a challenge coin and saluted him for his service.

The Honor Guard then came out one more time to Retire the Colors and finalize the ceremony