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Local veterans honored at Philpott Lake

The Franklin News-Post - 8/25/2017

A band of brothers bonded over hamburgers and hotdogs on Friday at Philpott Lake. United States veterans told stories and shared experiences while enjoying a cookout-style meal.

Veterans from Harmony Hall, an assisted living facility, attended the luncheon, sponsored by Chapter 52 of the Disabled American Veterans.

Ural Harris, local DAV treasurer, said it's something the chapter likes to do every year at the Philpott Dam picnic area across from the visitor's center.

"We get the veterans together and we bring them up here for a picnic," Harris said.

Harris, who served in the air force, said it gives the residents a chance to venture out of the facility and experience a change of scenery.

"It gives them a chance to get out in a different environment and get outside for a picnic," Harris said. "They only get to do it once each year if their families don't do it and a lot of them don't have families."

Individual members of the DAV purchased goods for the cookout, including potato salad, chips, drinks, hamburgers, hotdogs "and all the goodies to go on them," Harris said, making the event free of charge for the residents of Harmony Hall.

Seeing the residents enjoying the relaxed environment over a freshly prepared meal brought a smile to Harris's face.

"I enjoy it because it's other veterans," Harris said. "It's nice to be with other veterans. It's just a certain bond you have once you've been in there."

Even though not everyone served in the same branch of the military or fought on the same lands, there was camaraderie between the former troops.

"Nobody's really talking about politics. It's just different people coming together," said army veteran Marc Thomas, commander of Chapter 52. "It's so much good going on here, we haven't got time to worry about the bad."

Navy veteran and B.G.H. Sportsmen for Veterans founder Fred "Russ" Russell was passing through the area when he heard about the picnic. Every so often, he brings a group of active duty and combat wounded veterans from the Newport News area to Philpott to partake in recreational activities ? all free of charge.

"They do a lot of stuff for their veterans," Russell said about the local DAV.

Matt Filer, a member of the DAV who served in the army, related to many of the stories the Harmony Hall members told about combat.

"They know what we're going through," Filer said. "I was in combat most of my time, so it's all about brotherhood for me."

DAV vice-commander and army veteran William Wright noted the conversation-filled atmosphere of the outdoor picnic.

"This is to help the veterans and also the people that are in the community to socialize with the veterans," Wright said.

The DAV invited others to the picnic as well, including staff at Philpott Lake.

Craig Rockwell, retired operations project manager at Philpott Lake, enjoyed the fellowship.

"I try to support veterans in any way I can, so I love coming," Rockwell said.

While the event was well-attended by park rangers, military wives and members of the DAV, at its core the picnic provided "a chance for Harmony Hall residents to get out," Thomas said. "They're kind of like some of the forgotten veterans and we're trying not to leave anyone behind."


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