By MATT COMBS
BECKLEY, W.Va. — At the Veteran’s Appreciation Day on Sunday at the Fayette County Soldier’s and Sailor’s Memorial Building, the audience listened quietly to readings of what the flag meant to individuals.
Above them, an American flag hung from the ceiling and in front of them, above the stage, a simple quote, “For God and country to the last full measure of their devotion.”
The audience heard the songs of the branches of the military as performed by the Fayetteville Community Chorus, as well as a history of the flags of those branches presented by the Fayette Institute of Technology JROTC program.
When asked to tell the crowd what the flag means to him as a civilian, Bryon Freeman said he has a close relationship with veterans.
His father had served in the Navy and his brother died in service in the Army.
“That flag flies high and stands strong; it represents who we are as a people and that is what I think of the flag,” Freeman said.
Freeman said as a child he would go grocery shopping with his mother and he would always look in awe at the big flag flying outside the store.
“Standing alone and standing strong,” Freeman said of the flag. “It seemed like it was the only thing up there.”
Freeman went on to describe the flag as representing the strength and unity among all the nationalities that have made up the United States.
“It means, to me, helping one another,” Freeman said. “Being strong, doing the right thing. You can’t get better than that. One of the greatest things we have in life is helping each other. That’s what veterans did for us.”
Freeman was followed by Charlie Bryant, an Army veteran.
“I am very honored to speak to you about my flag,” Bryant said, introducing himself to the crowd. “I’ve been through jungles, been through deserts. I always looked at the flag because it flew high over every forward operating base I was at, every fort, every camp. It was a symbol of my home, the place I want to return, my family.”
The Army veteran went on to thank the other veterans in attendance and those not in the building by reading a Bible verse, John 15:13. “There is no greater love than a man that would lay down his own life for his friend.”
“I think that every veteran has done that one day at a time,” Bryant told the audience.
“It was a good program,” said Rodney Jones, an Army veteran who served during the Korean War.
Jones brought along a flag with eight stars that he had made to represent his family’s connection to the military.
The Korean War veteran’s father had served during World War I. He had three older brothers who served during World War II, a brother and a sister who also served in the Korean Conflict and a younger brother who served in the Air Force.
“I feel proud,” Jones said of the flag, before going on to protest how the NFL could pay millions of dollars to those who kneel during the national anthem, while he only earned an extra $25 in hazardous duty a month during his time in Korea.
Jones was happy about the youth turnout at the event but hopeful for their and the nation’s safety.
“I hope they don’t go through what I went through,” the Korean War veteran said.
Email: [email protected]; follow on Twitter @mattcombsRH
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