Monday, November 14, 2016 - Updated: 1:24 PM
Paige Young Sims called the 17th annual Veterans Appreciation Luncheon and Program “Awesome.”
“Oh man! This was one of the best I’ve ever been to; it gets better every year,” said her father, Bill Young, a former county attorney of Lyon County and a U.S, Army veteran. “This is a great, great program."
Sims and her father were among nearly 300 military veterans and their spouse/ guest who attended the 2016 program Thursday, said Terrie White, program founder. The program was conducted in the high school gym in Eddyville after the crowd outgrew the Lyon Convention Center.
Young went into the U.S. Army in early 1967 after receiving his juris doctorate from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 1966. He served in Korea. “It was during the Pueblo incident and the Blue House Raid,” he said. “There was a lot of activity going on; I was on active duty two and a half years. I didn’t go into the JAG (Judge Advocate General Corps) even though I had a law degree. I went into armor and served in one of the combat branches.”
James Parsley called the program “really nice. “I really enjoyed it,” he added.
Roy Duncan, 95, of Paducah was one of the oldest veterans attending this year. He was accompanied by his best friends Ronnie and Donna Hoskins. “It was wonderful; couldn’t be better,” he said. Duncan served in the Army during World War II. “I started at the Battle of the Bulge and went all the way through Germany; we liberated two concentration camp, Mauthausen and Gusen, in Austria. I was in the army for three years” with 10 months overseas.
“We love this program, it makes me cry every time,” said Donna Hoskins. “We started coming with Buddy Smith when he was a participant.”
Throughout the years, the Hoskinses who own Hoskins Coin and Gold Exchange, have donated a 1943 steel penny to those attending. Donna Hoskins said they donate the pennies because “it’s just a part of history that everybody needs to know.”
The zinc-finished steel pennies were struck only in 1943 because copper was needed in the manufacture of ammunition for the war effort.
Each year, fourth grade students at Lyon Elementary School write invitations to veterans for whom they have postal addresses. The fourth graders also help serve lunch after which they present a program of patriotic readings and music.
Thursday, Mark Cooper, a Vietnam veteran, took time to find Jacob Matchen, the fourth grader who invited him, and present the youth with a National Defense Medal. “Every time somebody goes in the military (he/she) will get that medal and that ribbon,” Cooper said. He added that he gave Matchen the medal so the students would “know that we appreciate them and that we care about them.”
White said she and the volunteers who worked at the luncheon were pleased to be back at the school. “The high school gym had more room for the veterans and it was more convenient for the students,” she said. “The students were able to perform up on the stage where it was easy for them to be seen. It was just a better set up.” She added that the program was moved to the convention center when the crowd outgrew the elementary school gym a few years ago.
“We know we still have a few issues, and we are working on those issues,” White said. “Parking seemed to be an issue this year, but we are working on solving that problem. The sign-in kind of got jumbled up, but we have already brainstormed and think we have that problem solved to get the veterans signed in and seated a little faster next year. There are still things we need to work on, but all-in-all, we thought it went smoothly.”
White praised Coach Jeff Doom, Shawn Tabor and the high school students who helped prepare the gym by laying tarpaulin on the floor and setting up tables and with folding and storing the tables after the program. “They set those tables up in no time and we started rolling out the table cloths and decorating the tables, and we were set up very quickly,” she said. She also praised the cafeteria staff for allowing volunteers to use the ovens to bake the luncheon casseroles
White expressed appreciation to Superintendent Russ Tilford, high school Principal Ryan Amerson and the custodians “for allowing us to use the high school gym and for their assistance in setting up.”
“They even talked about having us a new stage curtain for next year,” she said. “They seemed really pleased with the turnout and all three student bodies (elementary, middle and high school) got to come to see the program. So that was a plus.
“I am also so grateful to all the wonderful volunteers and donors who made it possible for us to put on this successful luncheon and program for our veterans,” White said. "Without them we couldn't do it."