Our nation’s war on terrorism has hit a milestone where it’s not easy to recall when it wasn’t around. Iconic images of “letters from home,” returning soldiers hugging family and applause in airports for servicemen carry unintentional nostalgia with them. Regrettably, nostalgic distance means actively deployed local service men and women are overlooked.
A group headed up by Marcia Semones, Cassi Barnes, Ashley Petke and Doug Barnes, who are all either members of VFW Post 1115 or the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary, are hoping their ribbon project succeeds in getting the word out our region (which includes Pulaski, Christiansburg, Lynchburg and Hillsville) has actively deployed service men and women.
“This is a joint program with the VFW and Auxiliary. It is to inform the public we do have local people deployed at this time,” said Semones. “The VFW and Auxiliary have adopted this unit. We would love to see that fence flying full of ribbons.”
She said participants may personalize the ribbons with messages and wishes. Persons may call the post before 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at (276) 728-2911 for more information on the ribbon project and for information on donating items for the care packages.
Semones was referring to the members of Charlie Company, the 1/116th Infantry which has been deployed to guard bases in the Middle Eastern country of Qatar. By taking these personnel under their wing, the VFW and Auxiliary are stepping up for a variety of duties aiding those deployed and their families. This includes assembling and sending “care” packages and letters to those serving and to keep in contact with their spouses, families and children to meet them at their point of need. (The address for care packages cards and letters for Charlie Company is Cco 1/116th Box 541 APO AE 09898.)
Veteran Cassi Barnes, who served as a machanic for Apache Helicopters, said one of their charges found out she was pregnant right after her husband was deployed.
“They didn’t have anything and didn’t find out until afterwards,” Barnes said. “We’re organizing her a baby shower.”
Barnes explained the nature of the armed forces in our area (as opposed to water-connected branches of the service such as the U.S. Navy) means deployment often doesn’t happen until National Guard units are called up (which is sometimes a five-year span of time).
The ribbons are available to the public for $1 each in colors including, red, white, blue and all three of those colors. The ribbons will then be tied on the fence in front of the Post Hall in Hillsville. All proceeds will go towards care packages and donations will also be accepted. They will be on sale all day November 12 at the Post and after the Hillsville Veterans’ Day Parade on November 12.
“I’m proud of my (military) service. Everyday I run into someone who says thank you for you service,” said Doug Barnes, a Califirnia native. He said it initially shocked him when he found out local schools don’t recess for Veterans’ Day. He fears in spite of special events honoring the Day, what has happened through the years is the observance has become “business as usual.”
Semones said she recalled the days when the VFW was the hub of the community with the gym used by many schools for sports.
“If thing were going on in the community, it was happening here,” Semones said. “We’re are struggling to get back to that. The Young Guns and what they are doing in the VFW has been a shot in the arm. The VFW is trying to be more community minded. We are still very much advocates for veterans and supporting active duty service men and women with letters, cards and care packages. It’s so important they know we haven’t forgotten them.”
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.