Veterans from throughout the region traveled to Prestonsburg on Oct. 31 for the sixth annual Veterans Appreciation Luncheon.
The event, hosted by Appalachian Hospice Care at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park, featured a free meals for veterans, door prizes and free photographs.
Sharon Branham, founder and president/CEO of Appalachian Hospice Care said this event would not be possible without the volunteers and community support from businesses. Around 70 volunteers helped serve veterans during the luncheon on Thursday and numerous sponsors were also commended for their support.
She said the organization served about 90 veterans during the first year of the luncheon, and the luncheon has since grown to include hundreds of veterans.
Branham told attendees that this event started because officials at her company realized that “veterans do not always receive the recognition that they should receive.”
“As a group of caring individuals, what could we do in one place that would allow veterans in the Big Sandy area to come together and be honored. Today, we’re honoring you and we’re honoring the past veterans and we’re honoring our future veterans,” she said.
Magoffin County veteran Russ Preston, who served as airborne ranger special forces operator in the U.S. Army from 1978 to 1995, said he appreciates being honored at this event.
“It’s really nice to come home and to see all the respect paid to the veterans. It’s really rewarding to step out and be among my brothers and sisters again who served, so I very much appreciate all that they’ve done to set this up,” he said.
Photographer Malcolm J. Wilson, who took photos offered free of charge to all veterans in attendance, said he wanted to be part of the event to honor veterans.
“It’s the least I can do, because I didn’t have to do what they did to protect our freedom and ... what it means to be American,” he said. “So, it’s very important for me to give back in any way I can. They asked me and I said, yes, I’ll be there, just tell me when. It’s been absolutely incredible, just meeting these veterans and hearing their stories and them trusting me to make their photographs. It just gets me. It’s important. We should all respect the United States of America and what we’ve been through to get to where we are now. So, my hat’s off to the veterans.”
Entertainment was provided by Billie Jean Osborne Kentucky Opry Junior Pros member Sean Leslie and Donnie Isaacs from the nonprofit veterans music group, C.A.M.M.O. (Center for American Military Music Opportunities).
Isaacs shared a song that he wrote about military life.
“So thank the veterans for your freedom. Stay proud to what we’ve done. And when evil comes knocking, we’ll stand and fight for the ones you love,” he sang.
Branham told attendees to mark their calendars for the last Thursday in October 2020, when the next luncheon will be held.
Event organizer Charly Sholty said the organizations will start planning for next year’s luncheon in February 2020. Those interested, may call her at, (606) 789-3841.