Craig County’s pride in the American flag goes ‘beyond the stripes’

Pam Dudding-Burch
Contributing writer

Bruce Warf proudly holding his gift that he and all the other military personnel received at the HONOR dinner. Olivia Slusher drew a hand gripping a set of dog tags, with the folded American flag in the background, with the words wrapped around the picture, which talked about the value of time moments.

The bold red and white stripes on the United States of America flag represents much more than just a piece of cloth, just as the stripes on a military uniform represents more than just a status. Both can tell a multitude of stories, ‘beyond’ their stripes.

Saturday, November 11, was Veterans Day, a day to honor Veterans who have served in the military and fought to preserve the freedom of American citizens.

On Sunday, November 12, approximately 130 military service men and women with their families gathered at the local VFW Post #4491 to be ‘served’ and honored by the community at the Seventh Annual Veterans and Active Military HONOR dinner.

“There are no words big enough, there is not a hug strong enough, there isn’t a smile wide enough. All we can offer is a thank you. You are our HEROS! You are in our thoughts. You are in our prayers,” reads a poem by Ashlyn Stanley that was written by a patriotic 10-year-old from Craig County named Maya.

“The initial idea of a Veterans dinner started when I opened the Community Center, JC’s Depot in 2011,” Pam Dudding-Burch shared. “A couple of ladies and myself wished to show our respect for our local military and were hoping for at least 50 people to attend. We were overwhelmingly shocked to serve 96 our first year.” Also, many shared that though the attendance almost doubled, and people were practically sitting in each other’s laps, the only thing people heard were comments of appreciation and thanks.

It was said that they received phone calls from a couple of Veterans who couldn’t attend the dinner, yet said, “No one has ever done anything like this for me since the war…I had to call and thank you though I am physically unable to make it.”

This year there were 130 on the attendance sign-up sheet and with takeouts and deliveries, over 155 were served (This doesn’t include volunteers). “We can never say no to anyone who calls and wants to attend, even if they show up at the last minute,” Betty Dudding shared with a smile. Dudding was on the team of four who worked diligently for months in planning the event.

The team consisted of; Pam Dudding-Burch, Betty Dudding, Diane Givens and Lynn Elmore. Each had a separate role they took on and, according to the comments during and after the event, successfully finished.

There were so many handshakes, smiles, pats on the backs and hugs, as well as delightful chatter that rang like a sound of home. “We thank you and always try to attend every year,” many shared. “It’s not that we want to be recognized, but it sure does feel good to be in this atmosphere of our military brothers and sisters.”

“I don’t have a lot of good memories of serving in the war times; I can tell you that,” one Veteran shared with glazed eyes. “But, I would go back and do it all again because I believe in our country and choose to do my part in protecting her.”

Veteran Jerry Jackson giving a long respectful silence as he reads the words, “A Veteran is someone who at one point in their life, wrote a blank check, made payable to the United States for an amount of up to and including their life. That is an honor.”

“I love to see the young people getting involved and loving on our military personnel,” Dudding-Burch shared. “It’s great to have intergenerational events where we can learn from one another.

Olivia Slusher, only 22, used her art talent to draw a rendition of a military person’s hand holding a set of dog tags with a folded flag in the background. “This was my way to say thanks to all of you,” she shared. “I appreciate every one of you, and please know that you mean a lot to me.”

The words delicately written around the picture read: “To realize the value of one year, ask a soldier who hasn’t been home in 365 days. To realize the value of one month, ask a mom who captures every moment of her baby’s life that her husband is missing. To realize the value of one week, ask the wife that has waited by the phone while her husband is on a mission. To realize the value of one hour, ask the lovers who are saying goodbye the morning of deployment. To realize the value of one minute, ask the wife who just missed his call. To realize the value of one second, ask the servicemen who came home when others in their unit may not. The event of our USAGE doesn’t determine OUR VALUE!”

Some military men have stripes that are hidden, whether it be inside their soul or on their bodies. Just as the stripes on the American flag have been ripped in battles, yet still stood, so have many of our American soldiers, and they still stand today, tall and proud.

When looking at a Veteran, make sure to look deep, for it may be then that people will be able to truly see the depth of their patriotism, loyalty and love. Yes, make sure to look and see just what is… ‘beyond the stripes.’ (More in next week’s issue.)

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