More than 150 current and former United States military personnel, including a dozen World War II veterans, received gifts and were honored during the third annual Garner Veteran Memorial Salute to the Troops last week.
The 32 musicians of the 2D Marine Aircraft Wing Band, under the direction of Staff Sgt. Katherine Genovese, were the highlight of the event at Aversboro Road Baptist Church.
The band played 10 patriotic songs during its concert and added “Stars and Stripes” as an encore before an appreciative, flag-waving crowd of more than 400.
“It was a great pleasure to lead this outstanding group of Marine musicians,” Genovese said after the concert.
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The band was exceptional, but it shared the spotlight with the 12 World War II veterans who were recognized individually and were presented with World War II Memorial commemorative coins from the White House Gift Shop.
A special military escort, headed by Air Force Maj. Gen. Todd Kelly and Army Maj. Gen. Charles Scott, made the presentations and led the event.
“Of the 16 million men and women who served our country during World War II, we have less than 600,000 still with us,” Kelly said. “It is a great honor to have some of America’s greatest generation with us today.”
Among the WWII veterans was Roman Greene Sr., who was drafted soon after graduating from Garner Consolidated High School and who served three years in Burma.
All veterans, not just the WWII vets, were recognized. Every veteran in attendance was asked to come to the front to receive a United States flag lapel pin from one of the members of the escort as the band played The Armed Forces Medley.
One somber highlight of the event was placing carnations at the base of the large memorial wreath in honor of loved ones who died while in the service.
Marine 1st Lt. Eric Templeton, a Garner Magnet High graduate, and Marine Sgt. Jonathan Nichols, a local Marine recruiter, placed the first carnations in honor of Garner’s Henry Sanchez and Jeffrey Stephen Webb, Garner High graduates who died during the global war on terror.
Templeton and Nichols flanked the wreath as each member of the escort and members of the audience who had lost a family member who was serving in the U.S. military placed their carnations as the band played “Going Home” from the motion picture “Clear and Present Danger.”
The wreath later was taken to the Garner Veterans Memorial for a ceremony at Lake Benson Park. The military escort presented the wreath at the memorial and the buglers of the band played a haunting Echo Taps to close the evening.
The event was presented by Garner’s Show N Tell Ministries and with the support of the town of Garner and Aversboro Road Baptist Church.
Tim Stevens: firstname.lastname@example.org, @TimDStevens