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With forecasts calling for clear skies Saturday, the flag will be flying high at the Wilson County Courthouse as hundreds gather for the annual Veterans Day ceremony.
“This ceremony is a chance to let veterans know Wilson County and the United States is proud and appreciative of their service,” said Ray Chambers, chairman of the city of Wilson Committee on Patriotism.
The event will kick off at 11 a.m. and incorporate Wilsonians of all ages, including the junior ROTC programs from Hunt, Fike and Beddingfield high schools. Another highlight will be the Earnest Ward Memorial Flag-Folding narrated by Chambers.
“A lot of people wonder why the American flag is folded the way it is folded, so twice a year, we do this ceremony where we explain what each fold represents,” Chambers said.
Wilson Councilman Logan Liles will be the keynote speaker at the event — a recent change after the scheduled speaker, a reservist who serves as a patient advocate for the Durham VA Medical Center, was called for active duty. In the event of rain, the ceremony will be moved to American Legion Post 13 at 2035 U.S. 301 S.
“As a veteran myself, I feel like this country appreciates my 20 years in the military,” Chambers said. “It was an honor to serve my country and it is an honor to show that appreciation to other veterans and their families.”
The Tobacco Farm Life Museum is having a backyard barbecue cook-off from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at 709 N. Church St. in Kenly where veterans and first responders get one free barbecue sandwich.
The free event kicks off with vendors, inflatables, antique tractors and pony rides at 9 a.m. followed by entertainers taking the stage at 10. Barbecue plates and sandwiches will be available for purchase from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. with cook-off winners announced at noon. For more information, call 919-284-3431.
Three area businesses also are celebrating Veterans Day by having fundraisers for the Veterans Farm of North Carolina. In addition to collecting donations, Ace’s Ale House will be selling raffle tickets for an autographed Le’Veon Bell jersey while Brewmasters will be raffling off dinner for two at SoCo and Pup’s Steakhouse will raffle a free-range turkey raised by Veterans Farm founder Robert Elliott.
“Wilson has been very good to us over the years,” said Elliott. “Wilson is kind of like home to us.”
The all-volunteer organization works to help veterans become farmers following military service.
“The biggest issue a veteran has with becoming a farmer is they can buy land or they can buy the equipment to farm. Generally speaking, they can’t do both,” Elliott said. “Most buy land and then work on figuring out how to be a farmer. We try to get with them before they buy land, so we can help them be successful and fundraisers go directly toward buying equipment to help alleviate the start-up costs of farming.”
The program has a waiting list of 130 veterans for training through N.C. State University and has become the most sought-after transition assistance program at Fort Bragg, according to Elliott.
“If you really think about it, the biggest industry in the state is agriculture. The second biggest is the military, so merging the two makes total sense,” he said.
Farming isn’t easy, though, nor is it inexpensive, so training and the fundraisers to grow the program is essential.
“What we’re doing honestly has less to do with farming and more to do with eradicating veteran suicide,” Elliott said. “It is more about getting veterans active in something that nourishes life instead of destroying it. The therapeutic benefits of being a successful farmer alone are tremendous, but being a successful farmer is very hard these days, especially when you are starting from scratch.”
Elliott said tangible programs such as Veterans Farm of N.C. are the best way to honor the veterans’ sacrifice. To learn more or donate, visit www.facebook.com/VetFarmOfNC/.