YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Local veterans from each military branch, ranging in service from World War II to Desert Storm, attended an annual luncheon sponsored by Towns County at the Foster Park Recreation and Conference Center on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017.
A Towns County Fire and Rescue engine greeted guests as they arrived, the American flag flying high from the ladder’s peak. Tables were adorned in red, white and blue as patriotic music welcomed the veterans and their supporters to the festive recreation hall.
Opening words were offered by Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw. “I’m in awe to stand here before you today,” Commissioner Bradshaw conveyed in appreciation. “I thank you all so much. Freedom comes at a price. As commissioner, I will support you. Towns County will support you.”
American Legion Commander John Harkins lead the posting of the colors by the North Georgia Honor Guard, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and a powerful rendition of the National Anthem sung by Summer Rahn. An invocation blessing was recited by American Legion Chaplain Katie Harkins.
Guest speaker Senator John Wilkinson addressed the crowd: “I hope you’ll accept my sincere thank you.” Senator Wilkinson referred to the history of Veterans Day, once known as Armistice Day prior to 1954, and made mention of the cessation of hostilities during World War I in 1918 on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.”
Newly elected Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales extended words of gratitude to the group of veterans. “You are the true heroes of our nation. Your sacrifices are huge. I offer a humble thank you for your service,” Mayor Ordiales said.
Last to speak was Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton. “I’m truly honored to stand here today. I don’t feel worthy to stand before you. I thank God we live in a place where our officials and community truly honor our veterans,” Clinton said. Sheriff Clinton acknowledged his grandfather and hero, Mr. Harold Nicholson, a World War II serviceman who attended the event.
A buffet lunch was served by members of the community, catered by Happy Hawg restaurant, while a military tribute presentation played on a large screen hung in the dining hall.
Fetch Your News (FYN) had the honor of meeting several local heroes and listening to the stories they shared.
Retired Naval Chief Petty Officer Clarence “Bud” Johnson, who served “36 years, four months, and four days,” said he enlisted at the age of 17. “I got my feet wet early, gave my life to Jesus Christ and that’s why I’m here, for We, the People. May God bless America,” Mr. Johnson affirmed, asking FYN to quote his sentiment.
Towns County’s oldest veteran, Mr. Frontz Goring, 96, a serviceman during World War II in the 2nd Air Force Training Command Division, expressed, “The Lord has blessed and saved me.” Mr. Goring recalled rendering assistance to a stranger choking on a piece of candy while living in Florida in 1975. “I had just watched a program on how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver, just before it happened. I know God put me in the right place at the right time to save the lady’s life. God is good.”
Friends reunited and new bonds were formed while memories of old and discussions of current events echoed throughout the hall.
“I’m privileged to host this event for our veterans,” Commissioner Bradshaw told FYN as the luncheon came to a close. “They served us and I’m deeply honored to serve them.”
A Veterans Day ceremony will take place on Saturday, Nov. 11, at 11:00 a.m. at the War Memorial, adjacent to the Towns County School, on Highway 76 East in Hiawassee.
VFW Adjutant Ashford “Ash” Todd invites the community to Post 7807, located at 1329 Sunnyside Road for a hot dog lunch following the ceremony.
Featured Image: Retired Naval Veteran Clarence “Bud” Johnson
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