By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
On November 10, Modern Woodmen held its annual Veterans Day Event at the Hokes Bluff Community Center.
The Etowah County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard kicked off the event with the presentation of the flag, followed by Erin Morgan leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. Kim Johnson performed the “Star Spangled Banner” with music by the Hokes Bluff Eagle Marching Band.
Hoke Bluff Mayor Scott Reeves welcomed everyone to the event.
Pastor Scott Hassell of First Baptist Church of Southside gave an opening prayer. Then, the Hokes Bluff Eagle Marching Band played several patriotic songs.
The event’s guest speaker was Rainbow City Police Chief Jonathon Horton, who served in the U.S. Navy. During his service, he was awarded three Army Achievement Medals and a Governor’s Commendation. Horton began with a brief history of Veterans Day, which began after World War I in 1938 as Armistice Day. In 1954, U.S. Congress changed the name of the day from Armistice to Veterans Day, as there had been a couple wars since the original day was instated.
“From that day since, it’s been a day to celebrate and honor all Americans that have took that oath and wore the uniforms of each of our branches of the armed services,” said Horton. “This day above all is to celebrate our freedom, and those that stood behind it.”
Horton continued by thanking not only those who have served in the military, but also those who are currently serving and the families of service men and women.
Horton went on to talk about his biggest hero: his grandfather Troy L. Horton. Troy joined the U.S. Army Reserves and was activated to serve in the Korean War. He served two tours in Korea and two tours in the Vietnam War, winning many awards including three Bonze Stars and one Purple Heart. Horton said that his grandfather inspired him to join the U.S. Navy after high school. Horton also served in the Alabama National Guard.
“He left with me something I carry every day,” said Horton. “It’s a little Bible that he was given. This Bible is nearly 60 years old. In 1949 this was issued to the armed services to every and each soldier. He carried this in his right pocket of his uniform, and he claims this is what kept him safe in two tours of Korea and through two tours of Vietnam. And I believe that to be so today.”
Horton went on to thank first responders. In closing, Horton told the crowd to “thank every veteran.”
Modern Woodmen representative Morgan Lavender then presented two Hometown Hero Awards. Award winners received $100 to donate to the charity of their choice.
The first winner was James Hanks, a 1960 Hokes Bluff High School graduate. He attended JSU and was a member of the school’s ROTC. Hanks served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967. During his service, he received many awards including a Purple Heart. After serving, Hanks received his doctorate and taught at both JSU and Gadsden State.
The second award winner was John Ed Godfrey. Godfrey served in the U.S. Army from 1953 to 1955. He worked at Republic Steel for 30 years and retired in 1985. He is active with many local community organizations, including the Hokes Bluff Quarterback Athletic Club, the Hokes Bluff Girl Scouts and Modern Woodmen service projects. He also lends his building and plumbing skills to the elderly and those in need.
Melvin Slocum was announced as a third recipient of the Hometown Hero award but was unable to attend the event.
Reeves gave closing remarks.
“We appreciate what Modern Woodmen and [Hokes Bluff] Seniors and Friends does for our community,” said Reeves. “And again, veterans, I know it don’t seem like much just to tell you thank you, but we do thank you.”
Hassell led the crowd in a closing prayer.
After the event, attendees were invited into the Hokes Bluff Community Center for a candle lighting ceremony, slideshow and food.
Later that same day,p Regency Pointe, a Rainbow City senior living community, held a Veterans Day program. Robert Gibson led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by Brenda Harvey with an invocation. Regency Pointe musicians played several patriotic songs.
Colonel Carl Sutherland gave the keynote address. Sutherland served in the U.S. Army for 25 years, where he earned the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars, four Meritorious Service Medals, the Air Medal, two Army Commendation Medals and the Army Achievement Medal.
Sutherland began the keynote speech by stating that Regency Pointe is “a community of American patriots” who know that “freedom is not free.” He went on to say that Americans have an “obligation to honor the service of those who have worn our country’s uniform,” because it is “the sacrifice of our armed forces and their families that have paid the price for safeguarding our liberty and protecting our national security.” Sutherland went on to thank the soldiers that are currently serving.
“If you want to show your gratitude for this land of the free and home of brave, then thank a veteran,” said Sutherland.
After Sutherland’s speech, Regency Pointe recognized the veterans in the audience. Bill Fulford gave the benediction.
After the program, attendees went upstairs to Regency Pointe’s multi-purpose room to view an exhibit put together through resident veterans displaying memorabilia collected during their service. Old newspapers, photographs, medals, flags, money from foreign countries, letters, foreign stamps, clothing, tools, a quilt and even fragments from bombed out buildings that were used to construct runways were displayed. While upstairs, attendees also enjoyed refreshments.