The event, which began in the same location when it was an undeveloped field, was celebrating on Veterans Day weekend for the second year in a row, Columbia County events manager Stacie Adkins said. Previous events were held on Memorial Day.
“In wartime or peacetime, our military deserves our appreciation and thanks,” Adkins said. “They put their lives on the line every day, and I think it’s our responsibility as citizens and as a county government to recognize these guys and girls. The things we take for granted, they give for us.”
County Commission Chairman Ron Cross delivered the opening remarks, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by members of Boy Scout Pack 321. Army Spc. Emily Shomo sang the national anthem.
Col. Sam Anderson, Fort Gordon’s garrison commander, thanked service members both past and present, asking them to stand while others in attendance showered them with applause.
“I have been in the Army 23 years and I have never been in a community that is more appreciative, supportive and accepting of the military population than what I have seen here in the CSRA,” he said. “It goes beyond a ‘thank you for your service.’” They genuinely work hard to think of ways to make life better for veterans and service members in this community.”
Retired Army Sgt. Tim Moseley said it warms his heart to see the community come together to support members of the military. He said he remembers being called a “baby killer” after returning from his three tours in Vietnam.
Retired Navy veteran John Schiltz wore a hat adorned with military buttons while he and his wife, Eva, watched the Army Signal Corps Band perform on stage. He said he gets emotional when he thinks of the troops currently serving overseas.
“It’s scary,” he said as tears welled up in his eyes. “It takes a lot of bravery and strength to do what they do, and you have to stop and appreciate it.”
Patrons were treated to a fireworks show at the end of the event.
Though the gesture might be small, Anderson said such events are important for future generations.
“We are going to be the strongest nation in the world only as long as we take care of our veterans,” he said. “Future generations of servicemen are going to want to serve depending on how they see veterans treated, so it’s very important to do these types of events.”