LAFAYETTE, Ga. – The common ground of commitment to their country allowed friends, families and guests an opportunity to strengthen relationships through shared stories of service and dedication as veterans and their families gathered to honor those who have served their country at the ninth annual Armed Forces Day Barbecue in LaFayette, Ga,. May 19.
The event, sponsored by Chapter 12 of the Northwest Georgia Vietnam Veterans Alliance, offered a variety of entertainment including: bounce houses, a dunk tank, performances by a local band and presentations by Junior Reserved Officer Training Corps cadets from LaFayette, Ridgeland, Dalton and Ringgold high schools.
“It’s impressive, it’s amazing and it’s an example of what’s so good about America,” said Lt. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, Third Army/ARCENT commanding general and guest speaker at the event, about the LaFayette community’s support of veterans. “I really appreciate that you do this, that you take time to thank veterans for all that has been done.”
Brooks said this was his second time visiting LaFayette. His first trip was more than 16 years ago, while serving as aide-de-camp to Gen. (Ret.) Ronald H. Griffith, a LaFayette native.
The barbecue brought together people of all ages to share memories and talk about their experiences. Many people met for the first time, but all found a connection through military service and dedication to veterans.
Gigi Robinson, from Chattanooga, Tenn. said she made the trip to LaFayette because of 90-year-old Chief Warrant Officer 2 (Ret.) Bryan Hall Jackson.
“I had bracelets made for people to pray for my son, and there was a write-up in the Chattanooga paper. Bryan saw it and called me. We became friends,” Robinson said.
Robinson has been supporting the troops since she was a young girl. During a summer camp Robinson met and befriended the daughter of then naval aviator and former prisoner of war, John McCain. The friendship led Robinson to write to an organization and ask for a POW/MIA prayer bracelet for McCain.
Forty-one years later that friendship and bracelet inspired Robinson to work with militarymoms.com and create prayer bracelets for her son, Will Robinson, a lieutenant with 25th Infantry Division, who recently returned from Afghanistan.
“We will see him (May 24), we haven’t seen him since July 2011,” Robinson said. “We are having a barbecue at our house, and I invited all the locals who prayed for him and wore a bracelet.”
Robinson said Jackson will be taking a trip to Chattanooga to go to the barbecue and meet her son.
As the food was served and the children played, veterans from all eras talked about their time in the military and how things have changed.
“I got off the airplane in San Francisco in 1965. It was a pretty chilling experience, not because of the weather, but because I had on a uniform. Not one soul ever said thank you, welcome home or we appreciate what you did,” said Griffith. “Thank God, and thank Americans, for the fact that we are treating our fighting men and women much differently today.”