A great event for veterans

Published 10:02 pm Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Suffolk Ruritan Club and the Suffolk Elks Lodge are just two of the many organizations working to make Suffolk a better place by supporting the people who live here through donations to various community causes and through the volunteer hours they commit to a huge variety of efforts.

But the Ruritans and the Elks have done something particularly special in the past few years by teaming up to hold a special day to celebrate and honor area veterans.

On Saturday, more than 100 veterans and their guests were able to enjoy food, music, games, door prizes, massages and haircuts, fellowship and more thanks to the generosity of these two community organizations, and the men and women who were the objects of their appreciation couldn’t have been happier to have received the attention.

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“We’re here to support them and thank them for their service,” said E.C. Harris of the Suffolk Ruritan Club. “I think the Elks Lodge and Ruritan Club and citizens of this country — that’s what we should be doing for all our veterans.”

Harris worked with Jimmy Franks of the Elks Lodge to put the event together, and the groups have made it a bigger event each year they’ve held it.

A special guest this year was 90-year-old Clarence Johnson, a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theater, mostly in and around the Mariana Islands. He enlisted in 1943 at the age of 17 and wound up staying in the Navy for 21 years, retiring as a chief petty officer. He stuck with the military for another 20 years after his military retirement, serving as a civil servant.

Arlin Peeples, another World War II veteran on hand for the event, joined the Navy in 1942 and served most of his time in the Mediterranean countries of Africa. He eventually spent 26 years in the service.

Johnson and Peeples regaled those who would listen — and many did — with stories about their service. That’s a rare treat these days, as so many World War II veterans are reaching the end of their lives. The opportunity to learn about the history of that great war from the men and women who served is something folks should not take lightly.

Especially as our veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam begin to pass on, it’s important that we remember their sacrifices, their hardships and their commitment to this great nation. The Suffolk Ruritans and Elks should consider this event one of the best and most important things they do all year. We’re proud of them for recognizing how significant these men and women are.