HAVELOCK, N.C. - Hundreds of veterans, community members and active-duty service members filled the Havelock Tourist and Event Center, May 18, for the 7th annual Salute to the Veterans dinner.
The Havelock Chamber of Commerce founded the event in 2003 and has hosted it every year since.
Former commanding general of MCAS Cherry Point, retired Maj. Gen. Thomas A. Braaten, served as the emcee for the event, which featured performances by the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band's brass quintet.
The room was draped in canvas artwork painted by Marine Corps veteran James H. Beasley, a member of the board of directors for the Havelock Chamber of Commerce who was instrumental in the founding of the event in 2003, all of which featured a military theme.
"This is a popular event," said Beasley. "We wanted to show the veterans we appreciate what they've done. It's very easy to take that for granted."
Sponsors, consisting of businesses, associations and individual community members, funded the dinner by purchasing tables for $250 each.
"If you look at all of the companies who have sponsored tables, even in this troubled economy, it's clear this is a very military-supportive community," Beasley said.
Braaten's remarks had the audience laughing consistently, making light of several different services. He has filled the role of emcee at the event for several years saying, "They seem to have hooked me."
"This dinner presents a chance to thank veterans and active-duty folks and have fun at the same time," Braaten said. "There are some great American patriots in this building today. It is fitting and fun to thank them for their service."
Veterans were on hand from virtually every armed conflict dating back to WWII, with the first member to join the service being 91 years old. Melvin D. Wetzel said he was drafted in the Army, April 25, and taken from his farm in Pennsylvania.
"My favorite thing about this event is seeing old friends come in," said Dan F. Walsh, a member of the board of directors for the Havelock Chamber of Commerce. "We have a lot of veterans here."
It's clear that the event means a lot to all those involved.
"As veterans, we don't ask for much," Braaten said. "The thank you from the chamber committee members, the sponsors, and the whole community means a ton."