Branson Remembers, Honors Veterans

American Forces Press Service

BRANSON, Mo., Nov. 9, 2006 - More than 50,000 veterans and their families are expected to attend the 13th Annual Veterans Homecoming event, which kicked off Nov. 5 in Branson, Mo.

The homecoming, with the theme, "Branson Doesn't Forget," includes numerous events, many free to veterans or active-duty servicemembers. It will conclude Nov. 11 with the 72nd annual Veterans Day Parade.

Sponsored by the nonprofit group Branson Veterans Task Force, the 13th annual event is a tribute to all veterans and active military members and those who support them.

Among the special guests who will share the week's events is Billy Templeton, a former prisoner of war who was captured by the Japanese and is a survivor of the Bataan Death March who did slave labor for three years at Mukden, Manchuria. Another is Ed Slater, a POW captured by the Koreans and a survivor of the Sunchon Tunnel Massacre, Marlyce Stockinger, one of the event organizers, said. Tuskegee Airmen Harvey Bayless and Judge Robert Decatur also will participate.

"We are honored that these and others will be here in Branson with us," Stockinger said.

Several celebrities will also participate, including Pat Boone, Moe Bandy, Barbara Fairchild and Lee Greenwood.

New events for this year's celebration include a troop ship, troop train, day room, a "Branson Doesn't Forget Ball" and a USO-style big band dance. Free events include the Branson Veterans Task Force Tactical Operations Center Headquarters and Vendor Village at Celebration City Convention Hall, where an all-American lunch will be served to veterans and active-duty personnel. Also new at the Factory Merchants Mall are flag-raising, reveille and retreat ceremonies.

Other events include traveling veteran tributes, the annual Korean War Veterans Association Mini-Reunion, a blood drive and a Red, White and Blue Style Show that will feature veterans and family members in their patriotic colors. Visitors also can enjoy the second annual Candlelight Military Memorial Service for all military and guests, the annual Gold Star and Blue Star Mother's Brunch and the annual Honor and Integrity Luncheon honoring youth military groups.

Veterans also can participate in the Veterans History Project, which enables veterans all branches and all eras to videotape their personal stories free of charge for future generations.

The Veterans Registry is a continuing project the Task Force sponsors during the celebration. It offers veterans the opportunity to conduct buddy searches among the 60,000 plus database.

The 72nd annual Veterans Day Parade, sponsored by American Legion Post 220, will begin at 11 a.m. Nov. 11. Closing ceremonies, featuring Barbara Fairchild, a Grammy-nominated singer, and Pat Boone, will follow later in the day at the White House Theater.

Boone will debut his new song "For My Country: Ballad of the National Guard," which pays tribute to the United States National Guard and the nation's troops. The song will be released this month, event organizers said. An accompanying music video includes interviews with soldiers overseas and families back home. Proceeds of the sales of the single during the event will go to Paralyzed Veterans of America, an organization that assists veterans of the armed forces who have experienced spinal cord injury or dysfunction.

The recipient of the 2006 Veteran of the Year Eagle Award, to be honored at the "Branson Doesn't Forget Ball," will be announced during the event's closing ceremonies. The award honors veterans, active or retired military, in Stone and Taney counties.

More information is available on the Branson Veterans Task Force Web site or by calling 417-337-8387.

(From a Branson Veterans Task Force news release.)

[Web Version:]