Georgia post honors troops, veterans

As they crossed over the narrow bridge into Tybee Island, Ga., more than 100 active-duty military and veteran families embarked on a weekend journey chocked full of fun in the sun.

Through collaborative efforts with local vendors, Tybee Island American Legion Post 154 sponsored its second annual Tybee Salutes Heroes weekend event. Members of the Legion family, local residents and businesses pitched in to provide the families with housing accommodations and a meal at the post.

“Collectively, Tybee made the decision to not just talk about how important our servicemembers are. We decided to but our money where our mouth is,” said City of Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman.

Fueled by the idea of a local business owner several years ago, the concept of the event aimed to give veterans and servicemembers a taste of what Tybee Island is all about.

A parade down the town’s main drag kicked off the festivities on Nov. 14. Post 154’s color guard led dozens of floats and vehicles manned by members of local businesses, organizations and residents.

Tybee Island native Jimmy Carter said he jumps at any chance he gets to give back to the community, serving as a member of Post 154’s color guard. With the hope of honoring veterans of all generations, Carter carried the colors during the parade.

“I owe it to my brothers,” he said with tears in his eyes. “When I was in Vietnam I said I would always honor them in any way I can. I carry that flag for them.”

After the parade, Carter put on his father’s World War II uniform to also honor him. As Carter’s father progressed in age, the two hoped Jimmy would be able to wear his father’s uniform and share that legacy with their family and others. Although Carter served in the Marine Corps and his father served in the Army, he said it meant a lot to have the opportunity to wear his father’s uniform while he is still around to see it.

Carter and other local veterans joined the Tybee Salutes Heroes participants at the Tybee Island Veterans Memorial where the parade concluded for a program honoring all war eras and each military branch. He expressed how much it meant to the townspeople to share the experience with the attendees and their families.

“We are still tight,” Carter said. “We still believe in each other and there is nothing we value more than our American citizens. We will do whatever we can do for them. ”

Later that evening, the post opened their doors to the Tybee Salutes Heroes participants and their families for a potluck with members of the Legion family. A staple in the community, the post has become a place where everyone comes together every day – not only on the days when people are in need. People at the post often gather there to uplift each other, celebrate and fellowship with each other.

“Our Legion really stepped up and made this happen,” Buelterman said. “Without the Legion, this would not have happened. They do wonderful things for the people here on Tybee, and they continue to also do things for people that don’t live on Tybee. They do great things in our community, and we are incredibly proud of them.”

For attendee Shamekia Wade, an active-duty soldier stationed at Ft. Stewart in Hinesville, Ga., she was grateful for the opportunity to spend time with her daughter.

“It is hard balancing my family and my life at work,” she said. “I appreciate the opportunity to have time away from everything to spend with my daughter. I don’t get to have as much quality time as I would like because my job is very demanding. It means the world to us to rekindle our bond – especially now – she is getting older and developing into a young lady.”

Sharon Shaver, one of the event coordinators and a member of the Legion’s Auxiliary, said the event was a great opportunity to introduce the younger veterans to the Legion to make them aware of the programs and assistance available to them.

“I would love to see a lot more young people join the Legion,” she said.

As the veterans slowly filed out of the post after the event, some carried Legion applications with them and others left in good spirits, but they all truly felt appreciated for their service and the commitment they made to support and defend their country.

Looking back on the event, which nearly tripled in size since last year, Shaver said he hopes that other cities across the nation will implement similar events.

“It is very important to honor our troops and our veterans – no matter how long they served,” she said.


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