The Blue Ridge Veterans Celebration held its sixth annual Veteran Appreciation Dinner at the Vinton War Memorial on November 10. The dinner was provided by Twin Oaks Baptist Church of Rocky Mount and served by Boy Scouts from the Great Valley District and the War Memorial staff.
A cake ceremony was held at the dinner in honor of the 242nd birthday of the Marines, with the oldest and youngest members of the Marine Corps in attendance doing the honors of cutting the cake using a saber.
Col. John Miller introduced the guest speaker for the evening, Maj. Tom Bortner, an Operations Officer (S3) who served in the First Battalion 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (The Stonewall Brigade), and is now serving in the Army National Guard.
Bortner served on active duty for seven years and now for four years with the Guard. During that time he was deployed to Qatar and Afghanistan and recently returned from deployment to the U.S. Virgin Islands where he worked in hurricane relief. His battalion was selected for the AUSA (Association of the United States Army) Kerwin Award as the best National Guard battalion in the nation for 2017.
Bortner thanked the veterans present for their service and their families for supporting them. He pointed out all that is good in America, despite the current atmosphere of dissension. He praised members of the military, both veterans and those on active duty, who sacrifice their time and energy, put their lives on hold– usually away from their homes and loved ones– risking their own safety, in the interests of their country.
Bortner shared that he and his wife have been married for eight years and have been able to celebrate the date together only twice and one of those was their wedding day.
Caregivers, the “Hidden Heroes,” were honored as well as Vietnam-era veterans. Col. Miller recognized veterans of the Vietnam era with commemorative pins for their service between November 1955 and May 1975.
The evening concluded with a flag retirement ceremony conducted by the Boy Scouts and their leaders at the High Ground Monument on a cold and blustery evening. Soloist Deedie Kagey sang the national anthem and several Scouts presented readings about freedom, patriotism, and the flag.
Veterans and all others in attendance were invited to participate in retiring the flags–which may only be retired by burning or burial. Scoutmaster Rick Wimmer of Troop 18 said that over 100 flags were retired during the ceremony, which included Scouts from Troops 18, 540, 235, 5, 51, 136, 210, 584, and 418, along with Packs 18, 30, 229, 352, 1, and Crew 773. Fires must be attended until the last pieces of the flags are totally consumed by the flames.
The stately and moving event was sponsored by the Blue Ridge Veterans Celebration, the Town of Vinton Special Programs, and the Vinton War Memorial.