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Armed Forces Day Events Celebrate Those Who Serve

During the May 19 Armed Forces Day celebration lunch at the Llano American Legion Hall, members of the Highland Lakes squadron of the Commemorative Air Force will give a presentation about their efforts to restore and maintain several World War II-era aircraft, including the Bluebonnet Belle. The event is open to all people to pay tribute to members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

LLANO — If there’s one thing on which we call can agree — no matter our political affiliations — it’s that our military service members should be appreciated.

The country has set aside May 19 as Armed Forces Day, a time to honor our active duty men and women in uniform.

Across the Highland Lakes, organizations and businesses are observing the holiday.

The Llano Tea Party and American Legion Post 370 of Llano are hosting an Armed Forces Day celebration lunch on Saturday, May 19, starting at 10 a.m. The post is located at 200 Legion Drive.

The event will feature several speakers and short programs to honor service members and their efforts.

One thing organizer and Llano Tea Party member Ginger Shilts emphasized is what the event isn’t.

“It’s not a political event,” she said. “We want everyone to come out. There will be no political speeches or things like that. It’s all about recognizing our service members and how they protect us every day.”

Tickets for the celebration are $10 at the door, but active duty military members and veterans get in for free. Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que is providing the meal.

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Michael Burcham is the guest speaker.

Burcham built a career in the Army that included a wealth of experiences. One thing that caught Shilts’s attention about Burcham was his work with the Wounded Warriors Project while he was at Fort Hood in Killeen.

“I’ve never heard him speak, but his background is amazing,” she added.

During his 21 years in the Army, Burcham’s career included both conventional forces and special operations. He was deployed several times in support roles as well as for full-scale combat tours.

Burcham’s deployments included Bosnia Hersogvinia (1997), Kosovo (1999), and three combat tours in Iraq (2004-05, 2006-07, 2010-11) for a total of 42 months.

He also played a role in Operation Willing Spirit, a 2008 hostage rescue of three Americans in Columbia held captive for five years by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army.

The Armed Forces Day event also includes a presentation by the Highland Lakes Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force and Highland Lakes Area Quilts of Valor. The Llano Junior High School band will perform.

Following the lunch, American Legion members will conduct the Folds of the Flag ceremony.

“When you fold the American flag into a triangle, each of those folds has a meaning,” Shilts said. “It’s a very moving ceremony.”

Any proceeds the event makes goes to the American Legion.

Anita Welborn of Highland Lakes Quilts of Valor presented a quilt to Navy veteran Kenneth Bowling in January 2017. Members of Quilts of Valor are presenting quilts during the Armed Forces Day lunch celebration at the Llano American Legion Hall and also at the Falls on the Colorado Museum in Marble Falls, both on Saturday, May 19. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

In Marble Falls that same day, the Falls on the Colorado Museum, 2001 Broadway, and Highland Lakes Area Quilts of Valor will present five quilts to area veterans starting at 2 p.m. at the museum.

The museum and Quilts of Valor are honoring James Briscoe, John Nix, Burney Schroeder, Wayne Schroeder, and Gary Spencer.

The national Quilts of Valor organization started in 2003 by Catherine Roberts, whose son was deployed to Iraq at the time. Her hope was to wrap every returning service member in a quilt so they would know they were loved.

Since then, Quilts of Valor chapters across the country have been working to make that happen

While in Marble Falls, you might want to stop by Burger King, 904 U.S. 281. That might seem like a strange request, but Dan Cone of the Marble Falls Veterans of Foreign Wars post said if people knew the work the restaurant chain did for veterans, they’d head for the home of the Whopper.

“Burger King is a big supporter, and donor, to the VFW’s Unmet Needs program,” Cone said.

Since 2007, Burger King franchises across the United States have donated more than $5 million to the fund.

“The Unmet Needs fund is like a discretionary fund for the VFW,” Cone explained. “Whenever a vet finds themselves in an economically tough situation, like they’re going to get evicted or maybe their child needs some medical care and they don’t have insurance or it won’t cover (the procedure), well, the Unmet Needs fund can help out in those situations.”

The Marble Falls VFW can tap into the Unmet Needs fund to help local veterans trying to get through a rough patch. It’s not an open kitty of money, Cone explained, but can be used if a veteran is facing a troubling situation and doesn’t have any other place to which to turn for financial assistance.

“It’s helped out a lot of veterans,” he said. “And Burger King has been a big supporter of the fund. Burger King is stepping up to help veterans.”

So, on Armed Forces Day, Cone hopes people will swing by the Marble Falls Burger King to order something or simply say “thanks for helping the veterans.”

It’s easy to get caught up in our own lives, but Armed Forces Day is a chance to recognize active duty service members. Shilts hopes when people leave the American Legion Hall in Llano after the celebration lunch, they carry something with them.

“When they go, I hope they take with them a feeling of gratitude for the people who have served and are serving our country,” she said. “That’s something we all can support.”

Call (325) 248-3129 for more information on the Armed Forces Day celebration lunch in Llano. Call (830) 798-2157 for more information on the Falls on the Colorado Museum and Quilts of Valor presentation in Marble Falls.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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