“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Nelson Parker quoted the book of John, and made that the theme of his remarks to the 23 veterans who reside at the Ridgecrest Retirement Community and their families.
“Each one of us answered the call to service,” said Parker. “You’ve said you love your country through your actions rather than words.”
While Ridgecrest has honored veterans in the past, this year’s event, which included an award for each veteran, is the largest celebration to date, according to member services director Janna Foley.
In addition to receiving awards, veterans were entertained with music and served a four-course meal. Members of the East Surry High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps also performed a ceremony, unfolding a flag as a member noted the meaning of each fold.
Foley said the number of veterans who reside in the retirement community has doubled since last year. Veterans include former members of each of the five branches of the U.S. military and a veteran of the British Royal Navy.
For Paul Hermes, a Navy veteran of World War II and the Korean War, the day was doubly special. Not only was Hermes recognized for his service, but he and wife, Helen, celebrated 67 years of marriage.
Hermes described the day as “sort of overwhelming.”
Kale King was another of the 23 veterans who were recognized at the event. King was part of the 414th Regiment, 104th Infantry Division during WWII. King said his unit was trained as “night fighters,” and it spent the longest consecutive period of time on the front in the European theater.
“We did the majority of our fighting after dusk and before dawn,” explained King. “The unit spent 145 consecutive days on the line. I was with them from Holland to Germany.”
Next to the combat infantryman’s badge and Bronze Star Medal on Kings chest, he wore a Purple Heart.
“I was wounded twice. Both times I was standing up when I should have been lying down,” King chuckled.
King, who is a retired Episcopalian pastor, holds a chapel service at the retirement community every Sunday. He said he loves the family atmosphere that Ridgecrest offers.
“There’s a real strong sense of family here,” said King, who went on to explain that Friday’s veterans event is just another example of the sense of community he gets as a resident at Ridgecrest.
Andy is a staff writer for The News and can be reached at (336) 415-4698.