Wounded, vets respected

Published 8:02 pm Monday, May 18, 2015

Bill Spence and Tim Whitmore, both veterans, attended an event held Saturday by the Suffolk Elks Lodge and Suffolk Ruritan Club.

Bill Spence and Tim Whitmore, both veterans, attended an event held Saturday by the Suffolk Elks Lodge and Suffolk Ruritan Club.

Dozens of wounded warriors and veterans were treated to a party Saturday at the Suffolk Elks Lodge.

It was the third year the Elks and the Suffolk Ruritan Club have partnered for the appreciation day. About 175 people in total attended the event, which included food, fellowship, games, entertainment and gifts.

E.C. Harris of the Suffolk Ruritan Club said the event started about five years ago, when the two clubs were assisting at a skydive at Suffolk Executive Airport, organized for wounded warriors.

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“We bought all the food, cooked it, sold it and gave them all the money,” Harris said.

But the two organizations decided to do something just for Suffolk, Harris continued. So they started their own appreciation event.

“We are sincerely trying to show appreciation for the wounded warriors and the veterans,” said Jimmy Franks, who is in both the Suffolk Elks Lodge and Suffolk Ruritan Club.

Veterans and wounded warriors were invited through local VA hospitals and veterans’ organizations such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Folks on the committee also carried around invitations and invited any veterans they saw — strangers in the grocery store wearing their old service hats, for example.

“Even if they don’t come, it still makes their day that you stopped and talked to them,” Franks said.

Each veteran and wounded warrior in attendance received a free gift bag that included T-shirts, gift cards and more. They also received free tickets for a drawing for about 50 door prizes donated by area businesses, a homemade quilt, and more.

“Nobody says no when you go and ask them,” Harris said.

Bill Spence, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, was one of those in attendance hoping to make connections with other veterans.

“I one day hope to meet somebody I was in the service with,” he said, adding he served in Italy during World War II.

Tim Whitmore, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, said he attended for those fellow service members who were injured.

“Anything that supports wounded warriors, I’m for,” he said.

Tommy Dee, also a Vietnam veteran and a member of the committee that planned the event, said it’s important to honor veterans.

“George Washington said as a nation, we will be judged on how we treat our veterans,” Dee said.

He added that Vietnam veterans, especially, deserve to see appreciation.

“We were hated; we were called baby-killers,” he said of their initial reception in the United States. “It’s nice now to see that people appreciate what we did.”