Veterans celebrated

Published 10:27 pm Saturday, May 20, 2017

Dozens of veterans, active duty service members and family members were honored during a celebration at the Suffolk Elks Lodge on Saturday.

The Elks and Suffolk Ruritan Club got together to have the fourth annual Veterans Appreciation Day.

“I love it,” said Rusty Gibbs, a U.S. Air Force veteran who served during the Vietnam War. “You don’t get to see veterans from different wars on an everyday basis.”

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The veterans were treated to a cookout, entertainment by the Gator Head Band and giveaways. The Boy Scouts from Troop 16 in Driver helped out, and Jon Echols, assistant scoutmaster, was master of ceremonies.

U.S. Navy Capt. Scott Brown, commander of Norfolk Naval Shipyard, came out to talk to the veterans about the goings-on at the shipyard.

E.C. Harris of the Suffolk Ruritan Club said he was glad to see the veterans in attendance having fun.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “Anything we can do for our veterans and active duty is good. They all like coming and enjoying each other’s company.”

With Gibbs was Steve Whitehead, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran from the same era. They go to events together frequently, they said.

“I think it’s good the Elks would do something like this,” Whitehead said. “We’re losing the World War II veterans, some of the Korean (War) veterans.”

The two clubs soon will donate a track chair they have raised money to purchase. The track chair is a modified wheelchair that is able to function in off-road environments like the woods. It is good for veterans who need a wheelchair but would like to be able to hunt or fish again.

The chair will be donated to the Warrior Retreat at Bull Run, a Prince William County facility that welcomes veterans and their families for three- to seven-day, free vacations filled with activities, special events and camaraderie.

Harris said the clubs would like to begin fundraising soon to purchase another chair to donate to a veteran.