The last Friday night of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration has become a tradition—a time for recognizing and offering appreciation to military veterans and current members as well as first responders.
With the fall of Afghanistan, much attention has been centered on our military, especially the 13 service people who lost their lives in the explosion at the Kabul Airport.
So, it was even more fitting that the Celebration provide this time for honoring those who have served our country so well.
The Celebration has been working closely with the Woody Williams Chapter of the Gold Star Family organization—one consisting of the immediate members of families who have died in a military conflict.
In an effort to shine a spotlight on those sacrifices, exhibitors in Friday night’s classes were invited to select a deceased service member to honor in the ring on a night where spotlight rides end each class.
Adding an exclamation point to the evening is new Celebration CEO Warren Wells, who spent a tour of duty in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He served as convoy security as a member of the Tennessee National Guard.
The rush to leave Afghanistan brought back memories to many of us . . . Hanoi at the end of the Vietnam conflict. A peace treaty was signed in 1973, but Hanoi did not fall to the North Vietnamese until 1975, prompting a frantic rush to leave the country by those who had been supportive of the United States government and Americans such as reporters who still remained in country.
It also is a reminder those who returned from service in Vietnam—an era when seldom soldiers were welcomed home with the celebrations experienced by those returning from previous wars.
While it is always great to celebrate the beauty and talent of the Tennessee Walking Horse—as fans are doing during the 83rd annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration—the events of the past several days have affected our lives in many ways.
Veterans attending Friday night were recognized by their branch of service and the war in which they fought.
World War II veterans are scarce. My father, who will be 89 in December, served in the Navy during the Korean War aboard the USS Iowa.
Since this column has to be turned in a couple of days, before Veterans’ night, I am not sure my father attended, though I know my mother was strongly urging him to go.
I never served in the military. I signed up for the draft, but in 1973, I was 16 and the war was technically over.
I have great respect for those who have worn the various uniforms of our armed forces, whether they have served in combat or not. It is a great commitment—one few are willing to make—but it is a necessary one in order to keep our country defended and free.
Fans were encouraged to wear red, white and blue colors on Friday evening in honor of our veterans. I hope many did. I also hope all exhibitors picked out a Gold Star veteran to honor.
In this crazy world, where we are torn in so many directions, it is easy to forget the sacrifices that have been made by so many.
Thanks to Celebration officials for giving us an opportunity to pause and remember.