|We also had the honor of meeting The Oak Ridge Boys before their very entertaining show later that night, which has evolved into more since then ... including them being recognized in Stars There For The Troops. (The Oak Ridge Boys are a must see . . . and they sing several songs from their great patriotic Colors CD.)|
November 6, 2009 – World War II Veterans and More
Having fathers who served in World War II made our attendance to the WWII Veterans Mini Reunion at the College of the Ozarks (a few miles south of Branson) on a very special, rewarding visit. Many of the veterans who went on a trip to Normandy for the D-Day ceremony with their College of the Ozarks student escorts were present.
The reunion included the viewing of the Connecting Generations documentary covering these two generations' trip. It has many touching scenes, words from the WWII veterans about their days back then, and gracious thoughts from the students on their unique experience. I hope all Americans, especially the younger ones, see this “powerful learning and travel experience” documentary created by College of the Ozarks in partnership with The Greatest Generations Foundation . . . Two Sergeant Majors on behalf of the Secretary of the U.S. Army also recognized the students for accompanying these warriors of America's greatest generation.
After the ceremony, I had the privilege of meeting many of them ... and having photos taken with some of them along with several Vietnam Veterans, who had their own mini reunion. I will always fondly remember this day, as I was in the company of my father and father-in-law's brothers-in-arms.
November 8, 2009 – Remembering Fallen Troops
We attended the solemn ceremony recognizing the fallen troops from Missouri by the Military Order of the Purple Heart at the Starlite Theatre in Branson. It was very heart grabbing to see the parents, wives, and other family members go up the stage to receive a memorial plaque with the photo of their loved one ... who made the ultimate sacrifice for our beloved, great country.
I was also honored by the reading of my poem, Tears For Your Fallen, at the Purple Heart memorial service for the fallen ... and the family members receiving a copy of it. I even had the privilege of signing my poem for the father of a fallen Marine, Alex Page, who was serving in Iraq the same time (2003) my youngest son, a fellow Marine, was and where Alex was killed in action. (His father proudly told me about his son's brave service and that he had been wounded on three separate occasions before the fatal fourth one ... Only two words come to mind then and now... Semper Fi!)
November 9, 2009 - Rose Petals Ceremony for Fallen Women in the Military
We returned to the College of the Ozarks for the Rose Petals ceremony that honored all the fallen women of the armed services. Women from each military service spoke movingly about their fallen sisters.
Following them was the keynote speaker Dr. Elizabeth Sharp, who is a U.S. Army veteran and an intricate part of Dr. Clarice Fluitt's ministry. Her speech honored all the women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to America while serving in the military. She also brilliantly discussed the cost of freedom as we now experience it and reminded all about its continued defense against all who wish to end it.
Then all attendees including a local female World War II veteran placed several rose petals in the water of a creek fountain in front of The Keeter Center . . . honoring the memory of the ultimate sacrifice paid by these women.
November 10, 2009 – Proud Parents Attend the Marine Corps Ball
Being the proud parents of a now Marine veteran ... we were really looking forward to attending the Marine Corps Ball at the Hilton Convention Center Hotel this day. It was even more than what we expected ... and truly exemplified the traditions of what it means to be a Marine. I hope every parent of active and veteran Marines will do the same ... as being there is the only way to fully relate to our feelings then and the lasting memory of it, which he hope to experience a few more times in the future.
I even had the honor of meeting Ret. Colonel Oliver North; presented him a framed signed printing of my poem, The U.S. Marines; and, had a photo taken with us shaking hands. Now, there are two photos of Bancrofts shaking the Col. North's hand ... the other one was taken in 2003 when North was embedded with my son's Marine unit in Iraq . . . And I gladly signed printings of my poem for several other Marine veterans including General Dake, who is the chairman of the regents for the College of the Ozarks.
My wife and I also met again with Joe Bonsall and Duane Allen of The Oak Ridge Boys before they sang the National Anthem . . . and hearing these four men sing our county's song makes one very proud of being an American.
November 11, 2009 – Veterans Day Parade and Closing Ceremonies
The Veterans Day parade was a perfect way to honor all the veterans in Branson as most were either in the parade or watching it along its path . . . It gave my wife and me the opportunity to thank more veterans of different generations for the brave, honorable military service and safeguarding our freedom and rights that too many Americans take for granted with a sense of entitlement ... which are due to what the veterans did and our troops are doing to preserve them.
Following the parade, there were two closing ceremonies...
One hosted by Tony Orlando, who is a real patriot and strong supporter of the troops and veterans. This one has many of the stars performing along with Tony Orlando and sells out well before the start of Veterans Week. So, we hope to attend it on our next Veterans Week visit. (Tony Orlando is another one like Bob Hope, Wayne Newton, and Gary Sinise when it comes to supporting troops and veterans.)
The other one is actually the official closing ceremony associated with Veterans Week that is put together by the tireless volunteer members of the Branson Veterans Task Force. And many of the top artists performed here at the Starlite Theatre who either went to or from Tony Orlando's closing ceremony after their respective performance.
Standing Ovation to The Performers and Other Volunteers
While my wife and I had the opportunity in the evenings and on a few afternoons to enjoy shows by other great performers besides The Oak Ridge Boys and Tony Orlando, I unfortunately don't have the names of all the performers and will not list the rest of those we saw to avoid slighting others ... with the following special exceptions due to personal reasons.
Dalena Ditto... She was the hostess for the opening and closing ceremonies that I attended along with being involved at several other events including one honoring women veterans. She is a wonderful country singer who performs classical and current songs with a great stage presence and interacts with the audience with humor and more. Dalena also introduced me to her audience, allowing me tell them about USA Patriotism! and being my life's mission since 2002. She wore several great patriotic outfits too. Thanks Dalena!
Barbara Fairchild and Roy Morris... These two country singers are married and show it entertainingly when performing together. They also dressed their patriotic best during the opening ceremony. However, it is what they did behind the scenes including allowing the use of their Starlite Theatre on several events including three we attended on three separate days.
My wife and I were able to spend some enjoyable time with Barbara and Roy, who still owe me a photo with them when dressed in their patriotic outfits ... grin. (Barbara had a huge number one song, “The Teddy Bear Song”, in 1973 that remains a classic.)
And all the other volunteers who made Branson Veterans Week a success deserve a standing ovation, as well, for their noble efforts including those spending many hours at the Veterans Village. (It was nice meeting many of them too.)
A Few Misses and A Touch of Christmas
There were misses too ... with a lingering regret on discovering afterwards that the Gold Star Mothers' event occurred when we were at another one. I will definitely attend the Gold Star Mothers' event on subsequent Veteran Week visits, as I know several Gold Star moms. (We also have more performers we would like to see including a couple of our favorites that we missed on this time.)
Oh yeah, the Christmas season starts in Branson during Veterans Week with its star filled Christmas parade that included performances by Mr. Christmas, Andy Williams. So, you will also enjoy a very patriotic, Christmas atmosphere including Christmas songs by singers in the second hour of their shows ... A great American experience!
Photos of Veterans Week and Next Year
I hope that you will now take the time to experience all the photos of Branson Veterans Week 2009. And mark your calendar to visit Branson during all or part of Branson Veterans Week 2010 and subsequent years.