Elks to host Medal of Honor reciepient at Saturday banquet

General Dale Hoover, (above)  a veteran of the U.S. Army,  delivered the key note address during the Veterans Appreciation Banquet Ceremony last yer. His lively spirit and sense of humor made for an entertaining speech. This year’s speaker, Colonel James P. Fleming of the U.S. Air Force who was awarded the Medal of Honor is also greatly respected and highly anticipate. (Courtesy Photo)
Tabitha Fleming
Staff Writer

Tomorrow marks a milestone for local organizations that have come together to show their gratitude to the Americnas that have sacrificed for freedom. The Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks, The Vietnam Veterans of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion and their auxiliaries along with citizen volunteers will host the 10th Annual Hutchinson County Veterans Appreciation Banquet tomorrow evening beginning with a social hour at 3:30 p.m. at the Borger Elks Lodge, located at 200 Opal Street.
Ten years ago a small group of dedicated individuals joined forces to give back to the men and women who served their country in times of war and times of peace. Just as the event budget has grown from a meager $400 to several thousands, so has the reach of the event. This year it is expected to be attended by upwards of 300 individuals. With previous special guests such as General Dale Hoover, Warren Chisum, Four Price, and Scot King, who raised awareness for wounded veterans with a cross country bicycle ride, this veteran-focused gathering will continue in that proud tradition with a Colonel James P. Fleming who will be delivering the keynote address.
The banquet is a completely free, family friendly event. “I want to make it perfectly clear,” said Clayton Norton, committee chairman and U.S. Army Veteran, “this isn’t just for veterans and their families, this is for anyone who wants to show their support for veterans and be a part of this evening where we honor them, thank them, and treat them with the respect they have earned.” The evening begins at 3:30 p.m. with a social hour. At 4:30 p.m. as guests take their seats, the colors will be presented by the Borger Elks Honor Guard with the leadership of World War II Veteran Joe Childress, and Korean Conflict Veteran Joe Martinez. A special Prisoner of War and Missing in Action [POW/MIA] Ceremony will honor those who are gone but not forgotten.
The keynote address will be delivered by Colonel James P. Fleming, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force one of only a few distinguished of service members that received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Colonel Fleming will arrive in Amarillo Saturday afternoon and lead by a cavalcade of VFW members on motorcycle towards Borger.
As the ceremony draws to an end, near 6 p.m. Great Western Dining, of Borger, with the help of local Boy Scouts and other volunteers will serve the Glazed Ham or Roasted Chicken dinner. In addition to delicious food, those in attendance will receive a medallion, or coin, that was specially designed and crafted for the event as a lasting keepsake.
The final meeting of the banquet committee last night at the Borger Elks Lodge was one of the most well attended of the year, with over 30 people in attendance. Always focused on expressing gratitude and respect, Chairman Clayton Norton reiterated what he had stated at previous meetings, that regardless of the number of meetings a volunteer had attended, their voice would always be heard, their vote would always count, and everyone would get a chance to speak. This conglomeration of individuals from multiple organizations and walks of life is a unique team, yet it is one that has withstood the test of time, at a time when support for the nation’s soldiers has been nationally low.
These dedicated volunteers have come a long way from that first banquet and even though the faces across the table have changed as beloved veterans have passed away, their memories continue to live on in the hearts and minds of everyone, especially the committee. Those mmemories will serve to motivate the Hutchinson County Veterans Appreciation Banquet Committee members as they carry out their mission to show the nation’s defenders the duty, loyalty, honor, and respect that they have more than earned.