A reunion of veterans
Veterans gathered last weekend at El Dorado Lake to reunite with old friends and make new ones during the annual Veterans and Family Reunion. It also was a time for remembering the sacrifices made for this country and bringing awareness to PTSD, which was this year’s theme.
Those attending were encouraged to remember the incredible cost given by veterans for the freedoms people enjoy today.
Today there are still more than 78,000 Americans unaccounted for from World War II, 8,100 from Korea, 120 from the Cold War, 1,810 from Vietnam and three from the gulf war.
In memory of those yet unaccounted for, a POW/MIA empty chair ceremony was held and the names of those remembered this year were read.
The opening ceremonies Saturday morning also included three skydivers from Gypsy Moth Skydiving in Benton who parachuted in, one with a large American flag. The veterans attending the reunion all then gathered around the flag before the flag folding ceremony. There were veterans there from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and Dessert Storm.
There also was the presentation of colors by the Women's Warrior Society and bagpipe music by the City of McPherson Pipe Band before the speaker.
Brandon VanMeter, who is stationed at Ft. Riley, shared his story as an Apache helicopter pilot in Afghanistan.
"I was always interested in aviation ever since I was a kid," said VanMeter, who is a Kansas native.
He was in the K-State Salina professional pilot program on Sept. 11. He said those events struck a patriotic chord in him so he went and talked to an Army recruiter two days later.
He enlisted on the delayed entry program and went to basic training in January 2003. He spent five years enlisted, having two deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan, during which he earned his sergeant stripes.
He also went to warrant officer candidate school in Alabama, graduating top of his flight class.
"I picked the Apache because I wanted to fly with the big guns," he said.
He selected Ft. Riley as where he wanted to be stationed to be close to home. He said he found not many chose Ft. Riley, so he was able to be stationed there, where he has been since 2011.
During his deployment, he said in the Apache they covered a lot of convoys and advised them.
"We would help those taking fire," he said. "We found out when we showed up it generally got quiet."
He concluded by thanking everyone there for their service.
"God bless the stars and bars," he said.
The reunion continued through Sunday morning, including auctions, music, drawings and fireworks. There also was an EagleMed helicopter that made an appearance at the reunion, as well as activities for the kids including a balloon release and crafts.
"Thank all of you for being here and welcome home," KVFR President Lance McCune told all of those attending.