As it has in the past, the event drew several generations of men and women who served in the military in some capacity.
Adrian “Buck” Anderson, 87, and his son-in-law Robert Bishop, both of Harrodsburg, have been to the event all three years. Anderson was in the Army during World War II, and Bishop served in the Navy during Vietnam.
Bishop said he enjoys the camaraderie found in the mass of other veterans and some of the recognition he and his fellow soldiers didn’t receive when they got back to the United States after Vietnam.
“This here shows that people remember all of the veterans no matter which war they were in,” Bishop said. “It was 20 or 30 years before they really started recognizing Vietnam veterans. This is like a big family atmosphere.”
Organizers and attendees say men like Bishop are part of a trend of more Vietnam veterans coming forward to be honored after at first being greeted with hostility.
Dalton Miller of Stanford, who served in the Army during the first Gulf War, was waiting Thursday to be joined by a friend who fought in Vietnam but had never been to any kind of veterans appreciation event.
“When we got back from Iraq, my platoon sergeant (in Iraq) over there said it was the reception they never got after Vietnam,” Miller said. “I think a lot more of them are starting to realize this is here for them.”
For the first time at this year’s event, videographer John Robinson recorded veterans’ stories. Martin said the project is part of hospice’s creation of a veteran’s history library that will be available to area schools.
Although many veterans are reluctant to tell their stories to those who don’t share similar experiences, the surroundings at the armory afforded hundreds of opportunities to connect with others who have served.
In a non-descript grocery bag, Robert Mitchell, 84, of Mitchellsburg had with him a treasure trove of personal and national history.
Among the items were the bronze star he and other members of the 25th Army Infantry were awarded for their time serving in the Philippines during World War II. Mitchell’s bag also contained several Japanese flags he recovered from a cave and photos taken at Hiroshima not long after the detonation of the atomic bomb.
On Thursday, Mitchell told some of his new friends the story of Eleanor Roosevelt making a visit to the Pacific Theater and hearing from thousands of men about the difficulty of constantly dealing with soggy feet. Mitchell said it wasn’t long after the trip that a much needed boatload of socks arrived from America.
Staging what has become the largest gathering of its kind in the area takes a group of 75 volunteers and the support of 84 sponsors who contribute money and time.
Three local Masonic orders again prepared all of the fried fish lunch plates, while Indian Hills Christian Church made desserts. Among the many servers were students from Danville Christian Academy, who have helped out every year.
Many of the volunteers wear T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase “Serve Those Who Have Served.” It is more than a slogan for many who gave their time to do everything from serve meals to help direct traffic.
Danville city commissioner and former mayoral candidate Jamey Gay became part of the committee this year. Gay said the event has special meaning for his family.
“My son Jameson is a Navy ensign, and my grandfather died in World War II when my mother was only 6-years-old,” Gay said. “I am just very grateful for what these people have done, and it is important there is something like this to honor them.”