The twenty-second annual veteran’s luncheon was a bittersweet affair.
On Saturday, Sept. 14, about 75 people listened as Charles Wilson announced he and John Sack will not organize the event next year.
“We are passing it along to someone younger,” Wilson said.
Wilson, who founded the annual luncheon in 1991, has been the driving force behind it ever since. Sack came on board about four years ago but he too has worked hard to raise money for the event, which honors Franklin County’s warriors.
Wilson announced that Charles Elliott, assistant to Veterans Service Officer William Scott, would take over the yearly celebration. The founder thanked everyone who has helped with the veteran’s luncheon over the years and asked those in attendance to sign a framed letter to Charles and Susan Stansell who have been staunch supporters of the Franklin County veterans.
Wilson said he does want to coordinate construction of a veteran’s float for the Seafood Festival parade in November and asked for volunteers to assist in the project. Half a dozen hands were raised offering their time and energy. Anyone wishing to work on the float should contact him.
After Wilson’s opening speech, he introduced James Waterstradt from Congressman Steve Southerland’s office. He apologized for the congressional representative’s absence and said his office only learned of the luncheon last week and Southerland was not able to rearrange his schedule.
“Even though you are only a part of the congressman’s constituency, he wants you to know that veterans are an important part,” said Waterstradt.
Wilson said attendance on Saturday was down from previous years and that, four years ago, over 300 people came to the luncheon.
“We’re dying off,” said Billy Cook of Apalachicola, a World War II alumnus.
Wilson, however, wondered aloud if the low head count was due to a new policy of not allowing carryout.
“I hope I haven’t upset anybody,” he said, “but we didn’t plan all of this for people to come pick up lunch and eat it in front of the TV. It’s about the fellowship.”
If there were fewer attendees this year, they came in a variety of ages. Participants in conflicts dating back to World War II attended Saturday’s luncheon. Scoutmaster Larry Hale brought a dozen members of scout troop 22 to honor Franklin County’s fighting men and women.
Rev. Charles Scott blessed the meal and gave thanks for, “those who were with us last year and are no longer here and those who came later.”
Attendees enjoyed a lunch of delicious barbecued chicken, Cole slaw, baked beans and a variety of sweets all prepared and served by volunteers.
All of the veteran’s attending the luncheon received ball caps commemorating 22 years of fellowship and food.