JONESVILLE — From “My Girl” with paratroopers gently arguing over the attentions of a lady in the crowd to more patriotic pieces like “God Bless the USA,” the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne All-American Chorus had a full house more than entertained during a time set aside to honor everyday heroes Thursday.
“Our seniors want to give back to our communities, and this is one way they can show support for our military and all they do,” said Kathy Payne, executive director for Yadkin Valley Economic Development District Inc. (YVEDDI), which operates the senior centers in Surry and Yadkin counties. “These are all the people who work every day to make us safer. They honor us for all they do.”
In attendance at “We Honor Heroes” were members of local law enforcement agencies including the Yadkin County Sheriff’s Office and Jonesville Police Department, firefighters from Arlington Fire Department, EMTs and first responders as well as veterans and active military members.
“What a good crowd,” said Elkin Mayor Lestine Hutchens as she addressed the crowd, making particular note to point out the four World War II veterans in the crowd by name.
She also recognized the volunteers and other heroes in attendance. “I admire anybody who can do those jobs. I thank the fire departments all over town, the police departments all over town, the EMT and rescue squads, the county ambulance people and everyone who serves in life threatening and life saving jobs. I thank you for your service.”
Jonesville Mayor Gene Pardue expressed thanks and appreciation for those everyday heroes as well, noting the nearing anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedies and their 24/7 response to calls.
As the gathered crowd sat down for lunch, paratroopers with the chorus marched in, providing entertainment in the form of several renditions of popular songs. The members of the chorus later dined with the group of community members.
Veteran Richard Bailey sat intently watching the members of the chorus perform. Later he said he attended because, “I knew the 82nd Airborne was going to be here. I was in the Airborne infantry and ended up a forward observer.”
Originally from Maine, he said he remembered as a 6-year-old his father lifted him up on his shoulders as they watched “the skies blacken” as the Airborne were flown into Portland, Maine, in 1943 and then boarded ships headed overseas.
“I said that’s what I want to do,” he said.
For eight years, Bailey served with the 82nd Airborne and was discharged in 1962 just before the Vietnam War. He said that’s what saved him, because he lost his brothers in that war.
He ended up in the Yadkin Valley after meeting and “surrendering” to “the girl that kept me straight for 48 years until she passed in 2009,” Rita Blackburn Bailey.
After the performance by the chorus, the floor was opened up for anyone to share stories or express thanks to the heroes who were present.
Tracey Anderson, the nutrition site manager for the senior center, coordinated the event, which was sponsored by OAA program, which is a program through YVEDDI which provides Meals on Wheels and congregate meals to seniors, and the Yadkin Valley Senior Center.
Anderson said, “This event was held to honor the men and women who serve as veterans, police officers, sheriff’s departments, firefighters, first responders and EMS workers from the Jonesville and Elkin area. Without the hard work, dedication and sacrifice that these men and women make each day, we would not be healthy or safe.”
A number of area groups donated food or funding toward the event including the Yadkin Valley Red Hatters, the VFW Wives of Yadkin County, Speedy Chef of Elkin, Roxi & Lulu’s Bakery in Elkin, Generations Restaurant in Jonesville, John Boys Restaurant in Elkin, Pepsi Manufacturing in Jonesville, Boonville Restaurant in Boonville, Mazzini’s Restaurant in Elkin, Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Elkin, Spirit Lifters Group from Elkin Valley Baptist Church, Mt. Herman Baptist Church of Dobson, Alvin and Brenda Hardy, Yadtel, Mountain Valley Hospice, Parkwood Place, Chatham Nursing Center in Elkin and Food Lion of Jonesville.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.