Ret. Chief Master Sgt. Barney Barnes spent 30 years in the Air Force working on helicopters. As he made his way down the aisle after Garner’s annual observance of Veteran’s day, he was asked what such an event meant to him. His answer was simple.
“Everything,” said Barnes, who attends the observance with his wife Pat every year. “I’m deeply honored to have been given more by the Lord than I deserve.”
Garner’s Veterans Day observance featured a flurry of patriotic speeches and musical numbers at Aversboro Road Baptist Church, where more than 200 people attended the ceremony.
U.S. Veterans Affairs undersecretary for memorial affairs Steve Muro delivered the keynote speech, praising the town’s acknowledgment of veterans and the veterans memorial’s role in the town winning All-America City honors last June.
“Not only are you minding the past, taking care of our history, but you are stepping forward to the future.” Muro said. “We’re not inheriting the land from our ancestors. We’re borrowing it from future generations.”
Mayor Ronnie Williams, a Vietnam veteran, also spoke briefly and Ret. Army Maj. Gen. Charles Scott served as master of ceremonies. The Garner Magnet High School symphonic band played for a half an hour before the observance started. Guests included state, county and local elected leaders.
Muro spoke about some of the initiatives of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, including efforts to fight veteran homelessness and provide jobs. He noted that 75 percent of the National Cemetary Administration under him are veterans, and described a new one-year apprenticeship program designed to help more learn how to be caretakers.
“When I think about it, every day in our cemeteries is Veterans Day. Every day,” Muro said of the 131 cemeteries his department oversees.
He also said walking through the Garner Memorial reminded him of walking through national cemeteries, in particular referring to the slabs noting the names of those from the Garner area who died in each conflict.
“Those names, they gave their tomorrows so we could have our todays. Don’t ever forget that,” Muro said.
The fourth- and fifth-grade classes from Aversboro Road Elementary School sang “It’s a Grand Old Flag” complete with synchronized gestures. The crowd came to their feet waving small American flags during Dave Kamphius’ performance of Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American,” and Dana Stephenson added a patriotic solo-singing performance.