On Monday, December 7th, 2015, I was privileged to attend the Pearl Harbor Day remembrance Veterans Coffee, sponsored by Hospice & Palliative CareCenter and Rowan Hospice & Palliative Care. The event was held at the Winston Cup Museum & Special Event Center, 1355 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., in Winston-Salem. I’ve written several articles about these events, but this was the first one I’ve attended and I’m so glad that I did. To listen to men and women sharing their stories of military life with others at their table(s) was a trip through history, depending on when and where they served.
At my table, I met Tommy Hadright who served in the Army (196 Light Infantry, Supply Brigade). He did a tour of duty in Vietnam and was based at China Beach. Bob Wilcox, another Vietnam veteran, was also at our table. Another served in Desert Storm and one had earned two Purple Hearts. That was just at one table.
The event began with the VFW Memorial Guard. The cast from Twin City Stage Swingtime Canteen sang the national anthem. There was a moment of silence for the fallen from past and current wars. To witness all those men and women stand, some with struggles, and salute the flag they fought for, was a moment I will not forget.
Attendees at the event included a Pearl Harbor survivor, veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq. One veteran had been a POW during World War II. He shared, “You don’t know what freedom is until you lose it. The Germans tried to starve me to death. God brought me home.”
Paul Guillena presented a POW/MIA flag to Don Timmons, the event coordinator and a Vietnam veteran, to represent the empty chair for the fallen and missing. The flag will be displayed at future Veterans Coffee events.
Brigadier General Mike Combest (retired) was one of the speakers. He shared that Pearl Harbor survivor was the official term, but he preferred Pearl Harbor veteran as many there that fateful day went on to fight and contribute to winning the war. He stated that on that day, “the military responded to absolute surprise and were knocked down, but not out. They went forward, fueled by fury and steel resolve. 178 days later, the Japanese Navy was dealt a stunning blow at the Battle of Midway.” The legacy of the Pearl Harbor veterans is “the way in which they became the flashing sword of vengeance.” They “set the standard for all veterans.”
The other guest speaker was John Masson, Special Forces Green Beret veteran of Desert Storm and Afghanistan, a Purple Heart recipient and Ambassador for the Gary Sinise Foundation. He spoke of “the three things that made us go: God, Country, Family.” He also shared that “it takes a special person to put up their right hand and volunteer.”
The cast from Swingtime Canteen provided the entertainment with excerpts from the play. Their piano player was also a Vietnam veteran. I could hear several people behind me singing along, especially when they sang, “I’ll be Seeing You.”
This was something special. If you or others you know are veterans, these events are designed specifically for you.
Hospice & Palliative CareCenter and Rowan Hospice & Palliative Care participate in the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s We Honor Veterans. The most rewarding way to honor our veterans is by creating social opportunities for veterans to spend quality time together. They have a common thread that binds them, and the Veteran Coffee events seem to be the perfect venue.
For more information about the Veteran Coffees, contact Don Timmons at 336.331.1309 or Don.Timmons@hospicecarecenter.org.