By Pam Dudding, Contributing writer
Without a shadow of a doubt, comradery amongst Veterans is an obvious core of beliefs, when you are standing in the midst of their presence.
On Saturday, September 11, Craig Valley VFW Post 4491 hosted their first Annual Veterans Potluck Picnic at their post.
As people entered, they were greeted with handshakes which seemed to have underlying strength in meaning and smiles that were unending.
Danny Kendall happily cooked the burgers while the Craig Valley Daughters of the American Revolutions prepared the tables for the lines to start.
Dennis White gave a ticket to everyone for special door prize drawings later.
Much fellowship was going on while everyone was waiting on the call to eat. Families walked around, admiring the many patriotic signs and pictures that decorated the walls.
Once the burgers were off the grill, a call to bless the food was given and the line started.
Post Chaplain Ken Looney welcomed everyone. He shared that at one of their recent meetings, he made the suggestion to have “a picnic to recognize and honor our Veterans.”
“All of our members though it was an excellent idea, and were very positive, and approved my proposal without any exceptions. As all you Veterans very well know, if you propose something that you would like to see happen, then you had best be ready to step up and take charge to make it happen, because it is now your baby,” Looney said before adding, “Well true to past experience, our Post Commander quickly said ‘Ken, pick your committee members and let’s do it tonight.’ Well, I learned in my Navy career, and in my business career, that to be a good and successful leader, all you need to do is to select good helpers, and that is what I did.”
He recognized and thanked the members who assisted him too – Robert Falsone, Dennis White, Peter Cranwell and Commander Billy Lee.
Burgers, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, salads, green beans and many other sides were offered as well as several choices of sodas, water and homemade lemonade.
The dessert table was so full that they had to pull up a second table to hold them all. Not much was left as the caramel, chocolate, angel food cakes, along with the coconut pies and watermelon and cookies.
Everyone was welcome to take a plate home if they so desired.
After their meal, a special program was given.
Though the VFW had several dates to consider when they came across the idea, September 11 ended up being the only one all could participate.
“The Lord provided this day,” Looney shared. “And I think it is the best day we could have chosen as Veterans to honor 9/11.”
He read thought provoking words in remembrance of 9/11, asking people to think what they were doing and where they were at, exactly 20 years ago.
Looney shared that he was at ITT Night Vision. They announced to “lock the gates” and no one was allowed in or out. Then the bank beside of them heard all their alarms go off and immediately evacuated, though ITT did not.
He captured the moments for everyone, describing what most saw on TV.
“We couldn’t believe it. It couldn’t happen to us because we are the USA, we’re safe. But it didn’t turn out that way, did it?” he continued. “Our Homeland came under a terrorist attack.”
As most recall, it happened in 2001 in New York City. Planes crashed into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
“No! It just can’t be happening!!! Not in our Nation. Somewhere else in the world maybe, but not here in the good old United States of America,” Looney exclaimed. “Our America has always been known as a Nation of Security, Peace and Safety. But now our trust, and comfort zone status, along with our rights as citizens with our awesome beloved freedom, has now been put to the test, and has shaken us to our core, and shattered our confidence of being ‘untouchable.’”
Looney continued that the terrorist attack filled many with the fear of the unknown and questions of what may come next.
He asked Billy Lee, Post Commander, to read from a booklet called “Remembering 9/11,” which has ten firsthand accounts of those who was “Facing Tragedy and Finding Hope.”
Lee read about people visiting Ground Zero the following year in New York City.
“The reading of every one of the 2,801 victims were read. At Ground Zero, there are places of devastation, destruction, and deep loss. The first use was in 1945 of the testing of the first atomic bomb. When Nehemiah visited the Jerusalem in 5th century B.C. he encountered Ground Zero situation where he provided a proposal to act, stating, ‘Jerusalem lies in ruins and it’s gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and end this disgrace. Life’s rubble and debris can overwhelm us and the temptation to give up is real. The situation of agony, disgrace and loss need not be permanent. They prompt our prayers to the gracious God of heaven. Faithful perseverance is in order. We must not lose hope as God provides what we need to press on.’”
Lee continued, “When flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon on that ill-fated Tuesday, many inside were trapped by a cloud of thick blinding smoke. Police Officer Isaac Ho’opi’i ran into the blackness searching for survivors and began shouting over and over, “to head towards his voice.” Six who had lost all sense of direction followed his voice. This is also the invitation of Jesus to each of us when we’re in danger or we have lost our way. Jesus described the true spiritual shepherd who calls His sheep by their names and leads them out. After He has gathered his own flock, they follow Him as they know His voice. Are we listening to Jesus’ voice when we are in difficult circumstances? Are we walking toward Him instead of groping towards the dark? He is the good Shepherd and whatever our need in guidance or protection, he calls us to heed and to follow Him.”
“Now you know why this day is so important to remember,” Looney noted. “We have 2,801 reasons to keep this day in remembrance, as we remember our brother and sister citizens, who perished in this attack. May we never forget them, or this day, as we recall the day our Nation came under a terrorist attack. Thank You Lord, for blessing us with our American citizenship, and for allowing us to live our lives in the greatest Nation ever known since the beginning of time, the United States of America.”
The VFW would like to thank the businesses that so graciously support them and donated to their event: Mike and Richard Carper – IGA Express Exxon and Gopher Market, Robbie Carper – Subway, Angie Guthrie – Guthrie Insurance, Phil Spence – The Emporium General Store, Carol Owens, – Pine Top, Caitlin Reynolds – Family Dollar, Mark at the Moose Lodge 284 in Catawba, the local DAR ladies and Arzetta and Carol.
The VFW members ask that everyone support these businesses that have supported them over the years.
A special thank went out to the Craig Valley Daughters of the American Revolution who came to serve the food. They responded, “It was a great event for the community to recognize an important anniversary of 9/11. We thank the VFW for the opportunity to serve.”
Looney ended the afternoon with a prayer.
“Lord this is a special day for most Americans, as we remember and recall, the terrible terrorist attack upon our homeland Nation, 20 years ago, today. Life has a way of surprising us and throwing us into a sea of confusion. We witnessed this in 2001 when an attack from the other side of the globe, came crashing down on us. We were surprised and caught totally off guard. When life is full of unknowns, confidence and assurance can quickly disappear, and in their place comes fears and doubts. But Lord, we know that if we put our faith and trust in You, then doubt and fear will soon be gone. We know Lord, that You and You alone, is the only one who we can trust in, to answer our prayerful call and bless us with your forgiveness, for the sins that we have committed as a Nation. We have turned our backs on You Lord and are living and doing just like the rest of this sinful world. Now Lord we plead for Your loving forgiveness, for our sins and our lifestyle failures, even though we continue to ignore Your Holiness. We devoutly pray for You to come and guide us, to where You would have us be as people of faith, and once again, allow us to be, “One Nation under God,” again,” Looney shared with emotion. “Lord help us to unite as citizens of faith, and take a stand against evil, and bring our Nation back to You. And Lord, help us to never forget, or take for granted, the high cost of Freedom, that You have blessed us with, paid for by those who gave their lives as a supreme sacrifice in Defense of our beloved Freedom. Lord, please bless every person who has ever served in the Military, and please especially bless the families whose loved one never made it home, We, again thank You for this day, and for this time of fellowship with our Veteran comrades, and we ask for safe travel mercies on each of us, as we depart and travel to our destinations. We now give you the Praise, the Honor and the Glory for our blessings, and ask that You please accept our Love and our Thanksgiving, for bringing us safety home from the battlefields. Thank You Lord again for all Your blessings and for our God given Freedom. We now ask that God Bless America, forever more, and keep us eternally in His loving care.”
Though games were set up on the grounds, it seemed everyone continued to enjoy the fellowship the most.
The DAR ladies and others assisted in helping to clean up and the event was at its end.
As each departed, handshakes, laughs and head nods were abundant.
“I believe the folks who showed up enjoyed themselves,” Fontane shared. “For the first time for this 9/11 event, it was a success thanks to all the businesses and ladies who helped out.”