Korean War vets reunite: Blount County Department of Veterans Affairs hosts cookout on 60th anniversary of war's end
By Wes Wade | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
While the Korean War ended 60 years ago, those who served during the conflict will never be forgotten.
More than 100 veterans and their family members gathered in Maryville Saturday for a free lunch hosted by the Blount County Department of Veterans Affairs and the American Legion Post 13.
Charlie Stanley, an 80-year-old Korean War veteran who served in Berlin during the war, said the lunch was a special opportunity to honor all veterans for their service. While fellow Korean War veteran Leroy Rogers had held dinners for veterans in past years on the anniversary of the armistice, Saturday’s event was the first free luncheon, Stanely said, and hopefully the first of many more to come.
“Leroy wasn’t able to pick it up this year,” Stanley said. “So we did and plan to hopefully do it every year.”
The luncheon, which had a menu of barbecue, ribs, hamburgers, hot dogs and all the trimmings, was not exclusive to Korean War veterans. Stanley said the cookout was open to all veterans and their families and that about 120 people attended the event, which started at noon.
There were several parents of fallen soldiers in attendance — individuals referred to as “Gold Star Parents” — including the mother and father of fallen U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Ferschke, who died in 2008 while serving in Iraq. Michael Ferschke Sr. and his wife, Robin, started a project last year to raise funds to have a bust made of their son. Stanley said the couple was in attendance along with some of their grandchildren.
A woman from Knox County, who also had a child die in service, also came to the cookout, Stanley said.
Ann Wolf with the American Legion Auxiliary and American Legion Riders led a Missing Man Ceremony, which is held in remembrance of prisoners of war or soldiers who have gone missing in action.
Stanely said he everyone in attendance had a great time and that he looks forward to an annual cookout tradition in the same vein.
“It was very successful,” Stanley said. “We were very pleased with the turnout. I wish everyone else could have been here to enjoy what we enjoyed.”
In addition to the main courses, several cakes, cupcakes and ice cream was made available for dessert. One cake was even decorated with the phrase “Thank you Korean War Veterans.”
Stanley, who has been a member of the American Legion for 58 years, said the group not only supports veterans, but tries to put together benefits and other events in an effort to give back to the community at large. And Saturday’s luncheon was no different.
“The community thanks us for serving our country,” Stanley said. “And we try to give back to the community, too.”