Arnold's annual VA Picnic honors America's heroes

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The Arnold Engineering Development Center's (AEDC) an¬nual VA picnic provided veterans from different eras the opportunity to share a meal, enjoy a change of scenery and share their stories with volunteers from AEDC and surround¬ing communities at the Ar-nold Lakeside Club Oct. 3. Some of the veterans took short boat rides on Woods Reservoir after sharing a picnic lunch with volun¬teers from AEDC.

"We hosted about 100 vet¬erans this year - from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Gulf War I," said Senior Master Sgt. Curtis Allen, 704th Main¬tenance Group superintendent. "I've gotten a lot of positive feedback on this year's picnic form the volunteers, the VA hospital staff members and the vets themselves."

Sergeant Allen, who is Ar¬nold's senior enlisted leader, said representatives from local communities played a signifi¬cant role in the success of this year's event.

"The Arnold Community Council played a huge part in getting the word out and getting donations together," he said. "We had close to 100 volunteers come out and help this year; they do everything from wel¬come the vets to serving food, setting it up and then cleaning-up. One of the most important things the volunteers do is sit and talk with vets - they really seemed to enjoy that."

Master Sgt. Carl Miller, AE¬DC's first sergeant, said the vet¬erans at this year's picnic came from the VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System's Alvin C. York Murfreesboro Campus, the Veterans Community Care Center and the Tennessee Vet¬erans Home.

Ed Magee, who served two tours of duty in Vietnam as a United States Marine, was one of the volunteers who helped with the picnic for the second year in a row. He is
currently the commandant of the Marine Corps League's Brig. Gen. Shofner Detachment 1128 in Tennessee. He said this year's event was very well done, add¬ing that every effort was made to make the veterans welcome.

"All veterans were personal¬ly greeted entering the Lakeside club," he said. "The feedback from the veterans was very positive, from the lunch to the goody bags to just being able to get out and interface with other veterans."

Magee said the Marine Corp detachment he is a member of has been involved with the VA Picnic at Arnold for the past several years.

"Our detachment provided numerous items for the goody bags for the veterans and we delivered them when we ar¬rived," he said. "The reason why we are involved is quite simple. We are also veterans and as such we respect those who have gone before us and came after our ac¬tive duty days were over.

Their answering their country's call to service should never be taken lightly. The honor, commitment and courage it takes to wear the uniform of our armed services are a testament to all veterans, especially ones that are now residents of the VA homes in Nashville and Murfreesboro.

"As a veteran myself, I don't think our country does enough to honor our warriors," he con¬tinued. "Those in the military today and those who served in the past do a job that some can't and many won't do. It is a true noble calling and one that enables us to continue to have the greatest country on the face of the earth."

Like last year, AEDC Fire Chief Daryl Lopes and other members of the base fire depart¬ment served the food, including hamburgers, hot dogs, beans, Cole slaw and chips. Other volunteers handed out cookies, coffee and soft drinks.

The fire department volun¬teers, wearing T-shirts with Motley Crew written across the front, also led some of the veterans in a karaoke-style sing-along with some vintage clas-sics. The Motley Crew theme is in honor of their leader, Jay Mott, who is a Vietnam vet with 50 years in the fire service.

"The karaoke last year was a big hit with the vets and our guys wanted to do a song for them," Lopes said. "We did Johnny Cash, Elvis and of course, we sang Rocky Top. It's really a blast when you can take a little time to give something back to men who have given so much in defense of our freedom. Also, our team this year was made up of combat veterans from Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Our group included veterans from the cold war and the Korean War eras."
Chief Lopes said he was proud of the way everyone involved helped to host the veterans.

"It makes you feel good to see the whole Arnold com¬munity come together to bring some sunshine into their lives," he said. "It's something we need to do more often than once a year."

Tech. Sgt. John Bankston, who works in the financial management office, said he was proud to serve as a member of the honor guard team that pre¬sented the colors, kicking off the event.

"This event shows that we will always appreciate those who blazed the path before us, the veterans," he said. They worked to preserve freedom not only for US citizens but in most cases, citizens of other countries."

Sergeant Bankston said he saw a number of veterans who had been at last year's VA Pic¬nic.

"There were a lot of repeat visitors which tells me that this event is put together well and that these veterans enjoy their time while they are here at AEDC," he said.