On a cloudless Nov. 11, a gust of wind unfurled six service flags and the flag of the United States, held staunchly by seven members of the Sun City Veterans Association. The event marked the 13th year that the Sun City organization has held ceremonies to honor those who have served in the United States armed forces.
Several hundred Sun City residents gathered for the Veterans Day commemoration, including the presentation of colors led by David Griffiths, in the Pinckney Hall parking lot. George Shock led the "Rudy Haumann'' SCVA marching unit.
Beginning the ceremonies, SCVA commander Larry Bonner said that Veterans Day began as Armistice Day to celebrate the end of World War I.
"It became a day to honor those who had died in service, and all those who had worn the uniform,'' Bonner said. And now, Bonner said, the day is an opportunity to recognize those who are serving tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We salute you for your service to your country,'' Bonner said.
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Patriotic and inspirational songs were performed by the Sun City Singers and the Jasper County Middle School Glee Club. Navy Lieut. Russell St. John, MCRD Chaplain, gave the invocation.
Also seated on the podium was Helen Sullivan, SCVA member of the year. Mingling with the crowd were state Sen. Tom Davis and Beaufort County Councilman Jerry Stewart, a Sun City resident.Lt. Col. Gary E. Gillon, deputy commander, 3rd Sustainment Brigade at Fort Stewart, Ga. and Hunter Army Airfield, gave the keynote speech.
Gillon acknowledged the teamwork, honor and duty of American service men and women. But, as a husband and father of two children, he said there are others who should be honored on Veterans Day.
"We owe a debt of thanks to our families. They provide us with support and encouragement every day. And volunteer groups like the Sun City Veterans Association provide our troops with invaluable support. On behalf of them, I truly thank you,'' Gillon said.
Quilts for Heroes
At the event, Lorraine Cronin, coordinator of the Quilts for Heroes Group of Sun City's Sew What Club, presented quilts made for wounded soldiers. "We hope they provide cheer and comfort,'' Cronin said.
Since 2004, the group has made and presented 699 quilts with a stars and stripes motif as a way of showing appreciation and respect to the military men and women serving the country.
Donations from the Sun City Veterans Club and the Sun City Lions Club, plus fabric donations from friends and members, enable the project to continue.
The SCVA sends more than 1,500 gift boxes each year to the military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; the association has paid more than $2,400 in 2011 to cover postage for boxes sent by Sun City residents. The gift boxes contain food, toiletries, games, puzzles, toys, coffee, candy, batteries, prepaid telephone cards, books, and even Frisbees.
Last year, the association donated $5,000 to chaplain funds for troops at Fort Stewart, the Marine Corps Recruitment Depot at Parris Island and the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort.
The $10 fee for membership in SCVA goes directly to supporting the troops; the association also helps the families of those serving in the military. Each week, SCVA members drive disabled veterans to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston.
And through the USO Liaison project, Sun Citys volunteers greet returning troops with cookies and toys for their awaiting children and with a warm hello at Hunter Army Airfields.