Serving those who served

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United States Air Force veteran Jim Page from Houston, Alabama was one of many who enjoyed a free Thanksgiving meal at the Brandin’ Iron in West Point Monday. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Local nonprofit Saving Forgotten Warriors (SFW) hosted its fifth annual Thanksgiving dinner for veterans and their families Monday. The event is usually held at the Brandin’ Iron restaurant in West Point, but this year expanded to a second location at Cullman Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2214. Meals were also delivered to homebound veterans by Cullman County Sheriff’s Office staff.

At the VFW, Post Commander Brian Monk told The Tribune when the event kicked off, “We are feeding veterans and their significant others, family members, close family members; come in, get a hot meal: ham, turkey, dressing, sweet potato casserole, green beans, roll, dessert. There’s been so many people donate desserts. I can’t think of them all, can’t thank them enough: the hard work that everybody put in cooking the meals, West Point School for letting us use their lunchroom. We wanted to do it in two locations because of all the COVID, and that way people that live here in town can come here (VFW). If they don’t want to come in, we’ll bring them a plate . . . If they want to come in, we’ve got them spaced out where they can come in safely and eat and just have a good time, just fellowship and thank them for their service.”

The Brandin’ Iron Steakhouse is normally closed Mondays, but it hosted a VIP crowd of veterans and their families. Manager Josh Speakman and a team of staff and volunteers worked throughout the weekend preparing for Monday’s traditional Thanksgiving meal. He reported that 200 pounds of turkey had been cooked and more was being fried as he spoke. Many individuals brought homemade desserts, including Cullman County Commissioner Garry Marchman’s wife, Bobbie. The meal included turkey and dressing, ham, sweet potatoes, green beans, roll and choice of dessert.

Air Force veteran Jim Page came from Houston, Alabama to enjoy the meal in West Point. He served in the Air Force from 1974-1995.

“I didn’t know about this until a little while ago and a friend called and told me,” he said.

Seated nearby was local World War II veteran Talmadge Drake and his family. Drake said he looks forward to the Thanksgiving meal each year and he was especially eager to pick out his cake.

At each table were letters from Cold Springs students offering thanks and appreciation to the veterans. One letter from a sixth-grade student read, “Dear Veterans, Thank you for fighting for our rights. All branches of the military are equally as important. My grandpa’s dad was in World War II. The branches I know are Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Space Force, Marine Corps, and the Army. I know some military quotes: ‘If a man hasn’t discovered something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.’ ‘To command is to serve. Nothing more and nothing less,’ and ‘The soldier is the army. No army is better than its soldiers.’”

Many veterans chose to dine in at the Brandin’ Iron or VFW, and many decided to take their dinners to go.

One veteran stated, “I got to get back to my job-babysitting my great-grandson.”

Grabbing meals via curbside and carryout was a popular choice at both locations due to the ongoing pandemic.

At the time of the opening prayer at noon Monday afternoon, the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office had already delivered 120 meals to homebound veterans and their families.

SFW Founder and President Jeremy Hogan said, “We’ll hit 200 deliveries easy by the end of today. I don’t know how many plates total, at least 1,000.”

Back at the VFW, volunteers were busy serving meals and the Marines were also taking donations for Toys for Tots. The VFW will serve as a Toys for Tots drop-off location until Dec. 11.

The Cullman VFW and SFW have been working in partnership for some time now, most visibly on the “800 Club” supporting efforts to give veterans cost-free access to the Stellate Ganglion Block shot to combat the effects of PTSD. (See www.cullmantribune.com/2020/11/05/more-than-40-area-veterans-have-received-sgb-shot-to-combat-ptsd/.)

For more, reach Cullman VFW Post 2214 at 256-739-6611 or Saving Forgotten Warriors at 256-747-5006. Visit www.facebook.com/Savingforgottenwarriors/ or www.facebook.com/cullmanVFWPost.

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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com