Those who put their lives on the line

Chamber luncheon recognizes veterans, military

Photo by M.J. Subiria Arauz
Keynote Speaker Col. Brent Bracewell shares his experiences serving the U.S. military with audience members, during the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce’s “14th Annual Veterans Day Luncheon.”

Photo by M.J. Subiria Arauz Keynote Speaker Col. Brent Bracewell shares his experiences serving the U.S. military with audience members, during the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce’s “14th Annual Veterans Day Luncheon.”

While enjoying a meal, veterans, military personnel and members of the business community socialized and bonded in fellowship.

The Clayton County Chamber of Commerce hosted its “14th Annual Veterans Day Luncheon,” on Thursday at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park.

Among about 190 guests, public officials and dignitaries in attendance included Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon, Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley, and minister and former State Rep. Mike Glanton.

Radio personality Moby, of the syndicated “Moby in the Morning” radio show, sang the national anthem and a song he wrote for the troops entitled, “Holding of the Flag for America.”

Each table at the luncheon had two military personnel or veterans, which gave an average citizen a chance to converse with America’s heroes.

At one table, Capt. Keith Carden, of the U.S. Army, told what prompted his decision to join the military. He said he grew up in Plains, Ga., where there is nothing but farmland. “The only way to get out of there was to enlist in the Army,” he half-joked.

Col. Brent Bracewell, commander of the 78th Aviation Troop Command of the Georgia Army National Guard, was the keynote speaker during the festivities.

Bracewell congratulated the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Color Guard of Forest Park High School. He said he admires their dedication and professional, and knows they will have a bright future, since they are already heading down the right path.

“I know it’s tough being in high school and wearing that uniform,” he told the teens, but assured them that joining the military has broadened his horizons and has opened opportunities for him to meet people all over the world.

He told the audience that he is not a man of few words, but a citizen encounter while at a grocery store left him speechless. An old lady, he said, approached him and thanked him for her freedom. “I didn’t know what to say,” he added.

He then stressed that the U.S. has hope, because of the men and women who are selfless, and are willing to put their lives on the line for the freedom of others.

He said he agrees with the late Tuskegee Airman Charles Dryden, in that the U.S. has made mistakes in the past, but has been able to recognize them, fix them, and move forward.

The U.S. military symbolizes hope for most people around the world, who live in countries that don’t have the freedoms of America, he said.

He recalled his time in Bosnia and Herzegovina in December of 1995, when the country was dangerous, and just getting over the Bosnian war. The war was caused by conflict over whether the country should stay under the Yugoslav Federation.

He said it was Christmas Day, and he was instructed to go to neighboring Croatia, where he would celebrate the holiday with fellow soldiers. He was operating a Black Hawk helicopter to get to Croatia, he said, but it malfunctioned and he was forced to land. Unfortunately, it was an unsafe area, he explained.

While figuring out how he was going to get to safety, natives of the country began to come out from behind a tree line. They were either going to be friendly or dangerous, he said. Bracewell said he carefully approached them, and figured out they spoke a little German. Thankfully, he said, he also knew how to speak the language, though he wasn’t fluent.

He said they were still having a hard time understanding each other, so he led them to the helicopter and showed them the U.S. sign on its tail. The people, in relief, began hugging him, he said. “They knew the U.S. was there, and that we don’t come to conquer, we come to liberate, to protect,” said Bracewell.

He said he as four daughters, and every time he has to go on a mission, he reminds them that he is doing what he loves, and that if he dies, to remember him with a smile on his face.

Jessica Kinard, manager of events and programs for the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, said the event lets the business community recognize veterans and active military personnel. “I think we had a strong military presence this year,” she said.