If there is any downside to Columbia Countys Red, White & Blue Veterans Celebration, it is that the architect of this weekends event wont be able to see his handiwork.
Former Columbia County Commission Chairman James L. Whitehead Sr. will miss this years festivities because of a schedule conflict. But the good news is that the patriots strong influence will be felt from the opening songs to the closing fireworks. Saturdays celebration is set for 6-9 p.m. in the Doctors Hospital field behind Kroger in Evans.
Every year, this community event gets bigger and better:
Organizers added a mini-parade last year; this year, active-duty soldiers from the Army, Navy and Marine Corps will march onto the field, led by Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross. Parading with them will be dozens of Girl Scouts, many of them carrying photos of their fathers or mothers who are serving in wartime active duty with the armed forces.
If that doesnt light your patriotic fire, as the old saying goes, your wood is wet.
For the first two celebrations, a crane hoisted a massive American flag. This year, the flag-raising will be accompanied by a breathtaking release of red, white and blue balloons. And Petty Officer Second Class Helena Lynch, from Fort Gordons Naval Security Group, will sing the National Anthem. Lynch served aboard the U.S.S. Constellation during the Iraq war.
Fort Gordons involvement in the event also grows this year. From K-9 demonstrations and Lynchs singing, to performances by the U.S. Army Signal Corps Band and an invocation from the Forts chaplain, this event enables local residents to rub elbows with a vital part of our community at a time when Fort Gordon needs the areas unwavering support.
Thats sure to be part of the message from U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood of Evan, one of the forts staunchest defenders, and from Brig. Gen. Janet Hicks, Fort Gordons commanding general. Both are scheduled to speak Saturday.
Past events have celebrated the contributions and sacrifices of members of the armed services from our community. This year, honorees include the late First Sgt. Randall G. Jennings, a Vietnam veteran and Fort Gordon civil service retiree whose name was added this year to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. Jennings was a Martinez resident until his death from cancer in September 2000.
Those attending the event this year will be able to recognize their own heroes, too. Paper stars will be available for visitors to write the name of service members or veterans, living or dead, to post on a wall of honor. The wall will later be displayed at the Evans Wal-Mart.
Any event that grows into a tradition will include similar elements every year - and this year is no different. The Evans High School JROTC will again post the colors, the renowned Columbia County Choral Society will perform and lead audience members in patriotic songs, and school children will receive awards for essays and artwork celebrating freedom. Members of American Legion Post 192 will properly retire United States flags; drop boxes will be available for worn-out old banners.
Of course, a spectacular fireworks display at sundown caps off the event. Its a great way to punctuate a weekend dedicated to honoring our veterans and those who gave of themselves in service to our nation.
Be sure to bring lawn chairs and blankets; seating is limited, an as the celebration grows every year, so does the crowd for this family friendly event.
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