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’m happy to see that America survived the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 without any tragedies.
It was a nice early fall Sunday here in small-town America, but I had an uneasy feeling all day. I watched some of the services on TV and felt a strong sense of patriotism.
It was good to see President Obama and former President Bush standing side by side as they honored our fallen fellow Americans. I wish we could join together as one nation like that everyday and not just in times of tragedy. I personally feel that 9/11 will be remembered as one of the worst days in modern U.S. history.
On Sept. 11, 2001, I was working for an airline company and it affected the travel industry more than many others. I was at work when the first tower was hit and we were watching the TV when the second plane hit.
I told a co-worker that the world as we knew it would never be the same. The days of simple airline travel were gone forever.
The attack affected me personally because I was involved in the day-to-day operations of tracking and looking for terrorists. There are things that happened that made me understand how serious it was. After going through this, I appreciated more than ever that having a strong military to protect us from the evils of the world.
I was honored to be a part of the Veteran’s Appreciation Picnic at the Ray County Museum on Saturday September 10. Since it was held on the eve of the September 11th anniversary, it gave extra meaning to us as we honored the veterans.
I want to share some of the highlights with those that were not able to attend. The day started at 9 a.m. when the museum began filling up with people who came to have coffee with our guest speaker, Maj.Gen.Jerry Harrison. The Allen-Morton-Watkins Chapter of DAR hosted the reception in the museum boardroom while the Ray County Genealogical Association helped staff the museum and give tours.
Many of Jerry’s high school friends came to see him, so we decorated the board room with pictures from their 1959 Echo yearbook. The Ray County Historical Society was hosting the picnic, so members were busy getting ready for lunch. Since I am a member of all three groups, I was making the rounds to see if everything was going as we we had planned.
At 11 a.m, we had a flag-raising ceremony by Boy Scouts from Troop 324 while Cody Horton sang the National Anthem. David Blythe, our Historical Society President, gave the welcoming, and Cody sang two more songs, one of which was in Italian. It was a song about a soldier that was writing home to his sweetheart.
Jim Rippy shared some thoughts with everyone and then introduced our guest speaker. Jerry gave a wonderful speech and shared with everyone how his time in Richmond helped prepare him for the future that awaited him. He said there are three words that defined his career. He learned the meaning of “duty, honor and country.” He also told everyone about Gordon Cupps helping him get his appointment to WestPoint.
After Jerry’s speech, Brother Lynn Rogers told how Hickory Grove Church has ended each Sunday service by singing, “God Bless America” since Sept. 11, 2001. He offered a prayer for our food and then his granddaughter, Alexia Rice, lead everyone in singing the song. It was a very touching way to end our program.
By this time, the aroma of grilled hot dogs and hamburgers was blowing across the museum yard and everyone knew that Allen Dale and Bruce Taylor were working their magic on their grills out back.
Shirley Bush, Rhonda, DaVona and Michelle got the food ready and served around 100 people. While everyone enjoyed their meal, we were entertained by David Knopf, who sang original songs, some about Ray County. He dedicated “Robber’s Cave” to me since my Richmond News story about the cave inspired the song.
The day was made complete by the local VFW and American Legion offering information about their services. VFW Service Officer Jim Rippy helped veterans fill out VA Referral forms and Dr. Dave Smith was there to represent the Excelsior Springs VA Outpatient Clinic. Dave’s a member of American Legion Post 237.
There are many other people that helped make this year’s picnic a big success, so I would like to say “Thank you” to them also.
One of the highlight of my day was when Jerry donated his West Point uniform to the museum. He also donated his typewriter that he used while going to school there. Both of these items will be added to the future Vietnam War room at the museum. We also have some Vietnam War pictures from Lloyd Brune’s private collection that are going to be used for this room. Lloyd was an official photographer during the Vietnam War and his pictures tell the real story of the war.
At the picnic, I put a name tag on my father that read,” J.B. Martin – US Army”. He told me several people come up and ask him about his NASCAR racing days. He always enjoyed telling these stories but the highlight of his day was when he told Jerry Harrison that he had been Gordon Cupp’s jeep driver. Jerry got a kick out of that because he then introduced my dad to one of his friends as “the man that drove Gordon’s jeep”.
For those that did not get to ask Jerry about his West Point class ring, here is the story. He lost his ring in Vietnam and assumed he would never see it again. It was returned later by a soldier that told him his ring had saved his life. This solider spotted something shiny on the ground. He bent down to pick it up and while bent over, a bullet pass by where his head had been only a few seconds earlier. I enjoyed this story because it reminded me that someone bigger than all of us, always has our back.
Linda Emley, firstname.lastname@example.org