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N.C. community honors all who have served

On Monday, Burke County Veterans Services will host its annual Veteran’s Day ceremony at the Foothills Higher Education Conference Center, located at 2128 S. Sterling St. in Morganton. Held on the anniversary of the end of World War I, Veterans Day recognizes all men and women who have served in the military.

Veterans, family members, friends and supporters are invited to attend the program, and Burke County Veterans Services officer Sharon Eckard encourages the public to participate.

“I’ve been taking the flyer out into the public trying to get more veterans involved. This program is for them, you know,” said Eckard. “I would just love to have more participants. A lot of folks in the county don’t even realize we have a program here, so I try to get the flyer up in places where veterans might see it.”

Eckard has been with the county for eight years, and has acted as the Veterans Services Officer for five years.

“It’s a short little ceremony, but it’s something that this office has been doing for as long as I can even remember. All of this just gives me chills, even just talking about it,” said Eckard. “There’s just no way that I can express how much joy it gives me to work with my veterans. To be able to honor them on this day is just something special.”

With the help of many local organizations, Eckard organizes this program every year to recognize and show support to the veterans in this area. Groups like the Disabled American Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Marine Corps League and the American Legion provide assistance to people in the county throughout the year and will be helping Eckard perform the ceremony on Monday.

“If I didn’t have these guys … the DAV, the VFW, the Marine Corps League, the American Legion … I couldn’t do all of this,” Eckard said. “They make all of this possible.”

Each of those organizations will have a table set up throughout the program and will be sharing with the public the work they do to help veterans and families in this area. The History Museum of Burke County will have a display of items and information from its military exhibit to share with guests.

“All of these organizations will have tables set up so they can share what they’re doing in the community with the public,” said Eckard. “The Marine Corps League and these other groups do so much for veterans out in the county, and most people don’t realize how much they do.”

Guests are welcome to arrive at 10 a.m., when cookies and coffee will be served. The ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. with a welcome message from Eckard and a posting of colors by the Table Rock Detachment of the Marine Corps League. The national anthem and special music will be performed by local talent Darrin Harwell.

Each branch of service will be individually recognized during the ceremony. Songs will be performed to honor the U.S. Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines. A brief ceremony will be performed to commemorate military personnel taken as prisoners of war or listed as missing in action.

“We are honoring all those friends, brothers and sisters we have left behind. We must pay homage to them,” said Lonnie Hollar, commandant of the Table Rock Detachment No. 1197 of the Marine Corps League. “That’s why the league is doing what it is doing, so that we can give back and continue to honor them.”

Steven H. Bush, executive director of the McDowell County Chamber of Commerce, will be the guest speaker. Bush completed 20 years of active service with the Active Guard Reserve Program in the Mississippi Army National Guard before transferring to North Carolina. Now living in Marion, Bush finished his tour of duty as an on-campus recruiter for Appalachian State University ROTC and retired in September 2012 with 22 total years of service.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 5362 will provide a free barbecue lunch to guests immediately following the program.

“There’s no charge for anything at this event whatsoever. The VFW does the barbecue lunch for nothing … these guys help me out so much,” Eckard said. “Without the VFW and the other organizations, I couldn’t put all of this together. I give them a lot of praise because they do so much … it’s just wonderful.”

For more information on the Veterans Day program, contact Sharon Eckard’s office by calling 828-439-4376.

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