By Kaylyn Christopher
Times West Virginian
Local veterans were honored at the fifth annual Veterans Day Breakfast at the Robert H. Mollohan Building on Monday morning.
Jim Chadwell, of the South Fairmont Rotary Club, said the event was just the beginning of a host of Veterans Day celebrations taking place throughout the community.
“It’s a great way to kick off their day with a breakfast and a salute to them,” Chadwell said.
Chadwell said the South Fairmont Rotary Club has hosted the event as an extended meeting in years past, but decided to bring it to a larger venue this year where more people could attend.
“We just think it’s really important that once a year we can take a day to set aside for the entire community to honor
the men and women who have served, past and present,” Chadwell said.
Chadwell and Mary Jo Thomas were co-chairs of the event. The breakfast was sponsored by Pierpont Community & Technical College and was catered by Aladdin.
The featured guest speaker was Richard Robison, a former naval flight officer who now works as a senior program manager at NASA.
Robison spoke about his personal experiences as well as the pride that all veterans should feel for their service.
“When you wore the uniform of our nation’s armed forces, you stood for this country,” Robison told his fellow veterans. “You clearly and visibly represented something that you believed in. You took an oath to support and defend the Constitution — a way of life, a vision, a set of principles. You put your life on the line to defend that.”
Rotary members Aaron Hawkins and Butch Phillips also gave a presentation at the event about the Honor Flight program, which flies veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit war memorials.
Both Hawkins and Phillips went as guardians on Huntington’s Honor Flight trip in 2013 and decided they wanted to bring the program to North Central West Virginia.
“We came back with a whole new appreciation for not only D.C. and these memorials, but also for the veterans and the stories that we heard,” Hawkins said. “We came back with a memorable experience that we will never forget. It was an enlightening experience for both of us.”
They hope to sponsor an Honor Flight trip in May 2014 during which they will take 100 veterans and 50 guardians to Washington, D.C. The trip is open to World War II, Korean and Vietnam veterans.
According to Hawkins, the trip is completely free to veterans but it will cost about $50,000 to take, so fundraising efforts are beginning now.
Hawkins said Honor Flight organizations exist in 42 states and more than 100,000 veterans have visited the memorials through those organizations.
“Our goal is to continue that process,” he said.
Hawkins and Phillips were on site to answer questions and provide more information to veterans who are interested in attending.
While veterans were thanked for their service numerous times throughout the morning, Robison also reminded them to continue to carry on their legacy.
“We as veterans need to continue to step up to serve our country, our community, our friends and neighbors,” he said.
Email Kaylyn Christopher at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @KChristopherTWV.