Veterans Week 2009 is history. I'm finally recovered from the excitement, hours of talking, the book launch, the US Army Freedom Team Salute awards, the Branson Stars & Flags Book Awards, long days, picture-taking for the Bugle, and all the wonderful events.
I understand why veterans love to return year after year. They visit with old friends and make new ones. That, in a nutshell, is what Veterans Week is all about. Each year I look for friends to return and I meet new people that I know I'll be looking for next year.
I have many Branson folks to thank for helping me with my little piece of the week. Bob Nichols, who produced the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, took time out of his busy schedule to help me make arrangements for the Book Awards during the Opening Show. Eight authors came from across the country to receive their awards. Joe Bonsall of the Oak Ridge Boys and Eddie and Connie Beesley presented the awards. It was great.
Sgt Major (R) Mike Dudley and Sgt Major JoAnn Schneider of the US Army Freedom Team Salute kindly included me in their recognitions throughout the week. We're already thinking about next year.
Ernie Bradley and members of the Branson Veterans Task Force and Women Veterans Committee worked tirelessly to make the week a healing and enjoyable experience for all veterans.
It was a privilege to work with Tim Davis of the Greatest Generations Foundation and Sue Head at the College of the Ozarks in planning the WWII Mini-Reunion. The foundation and college partnered earlier this year to send students with veterans when they visited the battle sites of their youth.
Chuck and Mary Schantag once again hosted the Military Gala at the Chateau, and introduced the members of the Sharon Rogers Band. Les Brown Jr. made the day for the band members by joining us for dinner. He charmed them with USO stories from his dad's day and from his own tours. I promise to post a photo later.
Marlyce Stockinger gave me the privilege of taking photos for the US Marine Corps Birthday Ball. For the second year, I was so awe-struck it was hard to focus on photography.
Jim Alexander once again traveled all the way from Portland, OR to take pictures. You'll see the results in the spring issue of the Bugle.
Nancy Smith is producing a photo CD of the week. Check it out on http://www.bransonstarsandflags.com/.
If you didn't make it this year, plan on next year. If you were here, we'll be looking for you again. It's the people that make the week - our veterans and Branson folks.