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News Community FHS Booster Club holds third annual ‘Salute to Veterans’

Members of the community came together last Friday night for the “Salute to Veterans” event to recognize veterans from every United States war from World War II to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Local veterans and their guests were allowed a free entrance into the football game and were honored by a series of standing ovations from the stands and music by Rhonda and Luke Bateman and Franklin's own Blue Ridge. “I think the ceremony went very well and the community support is great and every year we are asked to please continue doing it,” said event organizer Rhonda Blanton. “I know the veterans are very appreciative of it. It always amazes our visiting teams and fans that we hold this event.”

Blanton, who started organizing the event three years ago for the Franklin High School Booster Club, said the ceremony is a small way to honor those in the community who dedicated their lives to the country. “It is important for everyone to remember the service the current military and past veterans do and have done for our country and its citizens,” she said. “It allows us all to remember the freedoms that we have.”

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The ceremony honors a specific group of veterans to pay special tribute for their service. “This year our special honorees were the Korean War veterans and WWII veterans,” said Blanton. “We pick a special group each year and picked the Korean War Veterans and also included the WWII veterans because we are losing them so fast. We want people to thank them while we still have them.”

Franklin High School’s Athletic Booster Club held the third annual “Salute to Veterans” last Friday night before the Franklin High School varsity football game against Brevard. Veterans from all wars from World War II until the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were represented and honored.According to Blanton, she is already working to plan next year's ceremony. “The number of compliments we receive every year from the veterans and fans encourage us to continue with this event,” she said. “In fact, next year’s honorees will be the Vietnam War veterans and I am meeting with them next month to start plans for this event.”

Local, state and national officials all came together last Friday to pay tribute to the men and women of Macon County who have served this country. “At events like this, I stop and thank those vets for our country where elections are decided by the ballot box and not the rifle or grenade,” said County Commissioner Chairman Kevin Corbin. “Look around the world and we are blessed. We have a multitude of opinions and certainly things that divide us in this country, but we have more that unites us. We have a common heritage and pride in large part due to those who have served in our military. The U.S.A. stands tall today because of those who have preceded us. We honor them.”

The ceremony included awarding four #1 Panther Fan Awards, which were given to individuals or groups that have helped the Athletic Booster Club or Franklin High School in some way. “It is a special award and we do not award it often,” said Blanton. “This year we gave it to Blue Ridge for helping with this event from the start, Lee Cloer for also helping with this event from the start, Representative Phil Haire and Congressman Heath Shuler for all their help in the past with starting this event and always being willing to offer their assistance. It was nice to have their support.”

Franklin’s own Blue Ridge performed patriotic tunes to show tribute to area veterans. Blue Ridge was also one of four guests to receive the #1 Panther fan award for supporting the ‘Salute to Veterans’ program.County Commissioner Ronnie Beale noted Congressman Shuler was instrumental in passing legislation to honor Vietnam Veterans by declaring a National Vietnam Veterans Day. “Thanks to Congressman Shuler, our Vietnam Veterans are properly recognized across the nation for their service, and that effort started right here in Macon County with one of our own veterans,” said Beale.

Corbin, who is also a member of Blue Ridge, said performing for the veterans is a treat year after year. “It was such an honor for us to perform for the veterans and the home crowd that night. I know everyone was so pleased with the huge crowd that came out early for the tribute. It was Macon County at its best. Everyone was focused on honoring the men and women who have served our country so honorably. As a country we should always be looking forward and anticipating the future, while remembering those who came before us that have provided the way. It was a great tribute and Blue Ridge was thrilled to able to provide music for the occasion.”

Board of Education Chairman Tommy Cabe (R) introduced and thanked Franklin High School Principal Dr. Chris Baldwin.As an Army veteran, Democratic nominee for North Carolina's 50th district seat John Snow stated that he was proud to be a part of another special Salute to Veterans Program put on by Franklin High and directed by Rhonda Blanton. “The special recognition for the Korean and World War II veterans and the patriotic music by Rhonda and Luke Bateman and Blue Ridge made for another inspiring program,” said Snow. “These events are so important to say thanks to the men and women who sacrifice themselves daily for our county.”

NC-11 Democratic nominee Hayden Rogers was thrilled to be a part of the ceremony. “While we can never say or do enough to show our appreciation to our veterans, I admire what the folks in Macon County have continued to do to honor our veterans and servicemen,” said Rogers. “I was grateful for the opportunity to come together with so many in the Franklin community on Friday to show our support to those who have served our nation.”

State Senator Jim Davis (R-50) attended the ceremony again this year, and said coming from a long line of veterans, which date back to the Civil War, he never turns down an opportunity to honor the men and women who serve in our nation's military. "My father, who actually turned 88 last Friday, served in World War II and both the Korean and Vietnam Wars," said Davis. "As a son of a veteran, I feel I have a special duty to show my appreciation for the men and women who sacrifice their lives and their health to fight for our freedom. It was a privilege to be able to honor the veterans in Macon County.”


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