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Local veterans to still be honored – safely

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Committee working on plans for drive-thru event

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    Veterans Committee member Roger Hawke displays one of his handmade flags he plans to donate to veterans. DEBBIE LURIE-SMITH/Staff

The Jones County Veterans Committee is determined there will be a Veterans Appreciation Day in November, although it may look a little different.

The date of this year’s event is Nov. 14.

The goal of committee members at their Aug. 19 meeting was to come up with a plan that would make sure Jones County Veterans feel the appreciation of their community, but it was understood that the usual program inside the auditorium of the W.E. Knox Center would not be feasible this year.

The meeting was called to order by Frank Duke, who was standing in for committee chairman Richard Combs. Duke explained the chairman was not at the meeting because his wife was having surgery.

In his absence, Combs charged the committee to do what they could to honor veterans while keeping everyone safe.

Ideas were discussed of how the event could progress, and the consensus was to pursue a drive-thru event. Veterans would enter and register while still in their vehicles and receive a program with directions of the route to follow. Each station in the progression would have something for the veterans, such as hats representing their branch of service and different commemorations from local organizations that have been a big part of the event in past years.

Committee member Ed Barbee, who is also Gray’s mayor, said he would work with Gray Police Chief Adam Lowe about the best route for the veterans drive-thru.

Barbee said he would also contact Gray Fire Chief Keith Eisele about the flag over the event.

Committee member Leman Wood said he would be in charge of the golf carts.

The Pilot Club, DAR and Garden Club are among the organizations that will be invited to participate, and committee member Bonnie Duke will contact the organizations to talk about options for their stations at the event.

The Jones County Cruisers were represented by Roger Hawke. He said they are working on a drive-thru display of their vintage cars, and the American Legion Post represented by Russell Curry said their members are planning to prepare a meal that will be available to purchase. Curry said legion members will also be selling tickets for their annual gun raffle, and the drawing for the raffle will take place in a designated area at noon on the day of the veterans event.

The committee selected a theme for the event, Twenty Years of Honoring Our Veterans, that was the suggestion of Ellen Morgan. The theme reflects the fact that 2020 is the 20 th year of the Jones County veterans celebration. The first Jones County Veterans Appreciation Day took place in 2001.

After much discussion, the committee voted unanimously to cancel the annual 5K race that has been held in conjunction to the event. It was agreed by committee members that there was no safe way to hold the race, and the committee does not have the technology that would be required to try to have a virtual race.

Bonnie Duke said she would send letters to 5K sponsors expressing the committee’s regrets, thanking them for their support and asking for their continued support in 2021.

Committee member Anita Dockery volunteered to once again design the programs and invitations. Duke also suggested veterans invitations include a reminder about the flag drop in front of the W.E. Knox Center for worn American flags.

Hawke did have some good news for committee members despite the cancellation of the Chaptacular Chainsaw Carving event, meaning there will be no patriotic carvings for veterans this year.

Hawke showed the committee a wooden framed flag that he constructed at his home and offered to donate several to be given as door prizes for the veterans.

Committee members were unanimous in their support for the artwork donations.

The program continues to be a work in progress. Frank Duke said what was known at this time was that Sandra McKinney, who helped found the event, and Allen Carr, who was the first committee chairman, have agreed to be interviewed. There will be no choir, but Duke will contact Danny Dubose to provide patriotic music.

The format for the program has not yet been decided, but if it is to be videoed, it can be done at the Jones County High School media center and Kip Welch has agreed to help.

In a follow up email to the meeting, Duke said LTC Mark Perry contacted him to assure the committee of JROTC participation at this year’s event.

The next meeting date for the committee is Sept. 16, 1:30 p.m. at the W.E. Knox Center.