National Ladies Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars President Armithea “Sissy” Borel hugs state President Kim Lewis upon her arrival for a dinner reception at VFW Post 5080 in Lake City on Thursday. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)
LAKE CITY — Armithea “Sissy” Borel is a big “Gone With The Wind” fan so she was in hog heaven when she got to take in the place that inspired the book and its film adaptation Thursday.
Borel, a resident of Starks, La., regaled at the chance to stand next to a cardboard cutout of Capt. Rhett Butler at the Road to Tara Museum. She got a quick tour of some of the historical Civil War sites in Jonesboro from historian Peter Bonner. She got to visit Stately Oaks as well.
She said, as a “Gone With The Wind” fan, she loved having a chance to visit Clayton County.
“This place should be the most visited place I can think of because it’s just so rich in history,” said Borel.
But Borel was no ordinary “Windie.” She’s the national president of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and her two and a half day trip to Georgia this week included a heavy dose of Clayton County, including tours of local sites and a dinner reception at Lake City-based VFW Post 5080 Thursday.
Post 5080 is the home auxiliary for state President Kim Lewis and its president, Cindy Arndt, served as visit chairwoman for Borel’s trip. Lewis said it took a year to plan Borel’s trip.
The reception, hosted by the post’s Ladies Auxiliary, drew several prominent officials to Lake City to fete Borel. In addition to several auxiliaries from around the state attending the event drew Lewis and Georgia VFW Commander Ron Keller, VFW International Past Commander in Chief John Gwizdak and Clayton County Commissioner Sonna Singleton.
Singleton, whose district includes Lake City, presented Borel with proclamations from Gov. Nathan Deal and the Clayton County Board of Commissioners. She also gave the visiting dignitary a basket of “Gone With The Wind”-themed gifts.
“It’s just a lot of memorabilia from ‘Gone With The Wind’ and I hope you enjoy it,” said Singleton.
But all of the celebration surrounding Borel’s visit, she encouraged Ladies Auxiliary members to do more to help veterans. It was a reminder of why the VFW and Ladies Auxiliary exists in the first place, said Keller and Arndt.
“We need to tell everybody that the reason we exist is to ensure that the United States of America keeps its promise to the veterans of this country,” Keller said.
Arndt added, “It gives us something to strive for.”
Lewis said Borel’s first night in Georgia Tuesday was spent making bags for veterans in the care of the Atlanta VA Hospital. They went to the hospital the next day and played Bingo with the vets and visited the hospital’s nursing home wing Wednesday.
“We had a great time at the VA hospital. The visit was just wonderful,” said Lewis.
Borel said VA hospitals and their patients are especially close to her heart because her brother was severely injured in the Vietnam War when a soldier marching in front of him stepped on a landmine. It destroyed the entire right side of her brother’s body and cost him his right leg and part of his face.
However, she said VA doctors were able to save his life and restructure his face. They also treated his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that he developed because of his experience.
“Without the VA, I don’t know what we would have done with my brother,” said Borel.
Borel said her visit to the Atlanta VA Hospital affirmed why it is important for VFW and Ladies Auxiliary members to support veterans when they come back from combat zones.
She said she saw several veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from PTSD. Some of them were “staring off into space” and were unable to acknowledge her presence at their bedsides.
“Our country’s battle for freedom caused that and we have got to feel some responsibility for some of that and make sure we have the best VA available to take care of them,” said Borel.
Gwizdak said it is important for people like Borel to spread the word about the importance of helping veterans because Americans are increasingly seeing the nation’s military conflicts as events that don’t affect them. They end up having to compete with television shows, such as “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” for the attention of many people.
“The message has to be spread because we find, today, that if you or a member of your family is not directly involved with the war, it’s just another event on TV,” said Gwizdak. “It’s not so much that we want the veteran to be praised. We want the veteran to be cared for. War is hell and we don’t build monuments to honor war. You build monuments to honor the warriors.”