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Veterans and their families honored at 9th annual American Legion Post 47 supper

Veterans and their family members enjoyed a delicious dinner and fellowship Saturday evening during the ninth annual Gordon County American Legion Post 47 Veteran’s Supper. The event, hosted at the National Guard Armory in downtown Calhoun, was attended by more than 200 guests, all giving special thanks to the servicemen and women whose sacrifices keep America free.

Bruce Henderson, the commander of American Legion Post 47, kicked off the evening by introducing himself, Chaplain Walter Printup, and the evening’s special guests, who were all seated at a long table in the front of the room.

Included among the special guests were U.S. Army Retired Major General Terry Nesbitt and his wife Leatha; U.S. Army Retired Brigadier General Johnny Brown; Director of WFO Dave Bernier and his wife Jonnane; WFO Meat Manager George Arnold; U.S. Army Retired Lieutenant Colonel and Director of Gordon Central High School’s JROTC Program Mike Mansi and his wife Suzanne; Sheriff Mitch Ralston and his wife Nickki; Chief of Investigations Robert Parish and his wife Becky; POW/MIA ceremony speaker Joe Raburn and his wife Carole; vocalist Ashley Dobson and her husband Brian; photographer John Banks; Rev. Sammy Allen and his son Samuel Allen; American Legion Auxiliary President Regina Wyatt; American Legion Sons of the American Legion Commander Terry VanDyke and his wife Cindy; and American Legion Riders Director Steve Sanders.

Following the introduction, the Gordon County JROTC posted the colors. Dobson sang the national anthem, and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited by volunteers, veterans, and guests alike.

Henderson then recognized recipients of the Purple Heart, a military decoration awarded to those wounded or killed in action during military service, and the Gold Star families present at the event. Gold Star families are the families of fallen service members who died while serving in a time of conflict. Families and veterans in each of these groups sat at tables color-coordinated to match their specific honor.

At the back of the dining hall, a table was set up in honor of soldiers declared prisoners of war or missing in action. Joe Raburn conducted a ceremony identifying the significance of each object on and surrounding the table, including the table setting, white tablecloth, yellow ribbon, single red rose, slice of lemon, salt on the bread plate, inverted glass, empty chair and lit candle.

“As you entered the banquet hall this evening, you may have noticed a small table in a place of honor. It is set for one. This table is our way of symbolizing the fact that members of our profession of arms are missing from our midst. They are commonly called POWs or MIAs. We call them ‘brothers,’” Raburn said. “They are unable to be with us this evening, and so we remember them.”

The event committee for the Veteran’s Supper included Henderson, Raburn, Tony Holsomback, regina Wyatt, Steve Sanders, Geary Cooper, Chase Dean, and Donna Blair. Contributors included American Legion Post 47, Wholesale Food Outlet, 1/108th National Guard Armory, the Gordon County Sheriff’s Department, Faith Baptist Campgrounds and Mansi.

Members of the American Legion Riders, the American Legion Post 47 Ladies Auxiliary, Sons of the American Legion Post 47, and the Gordon Central JROTC program all volunteered to take part in the event.

Calhoun man killed in Whitfield County hit and run; Cumming woman dies in I-75 crash

Two people were killed in separate car crashes over the weekend — one was a Calhoun resident who was struck in a Whitfield County hit and run and another was a Cumming resident who crashed on the interstate in Calhoun.

According to the Georgia State Patrol, 18-year-old Emory Ware of Calhoun was the victim of a hit and run at the intersection of the Dalton bypass and Maddox Chapel Road N.E. in Whitfield County just after 1 a.m. on Sunday. An official with Gordon County Schools confirmed Monday that Ware was a 2019 graduate of Gordon Central High School.

First responders in Whitfield found what appears to be a grill from a 2000-2003 Buick Regal or Buick Century. Reports indicate the vehicle was traveling northbound on the byass when it struck Ware. Officials believe the Buick will have heavy damage to the front end and to the windshield.

The GSP Specialized Collision Reconstruction team is heading the investigation and is asking anyone with information about the crash to email scrta@gsp.net or to call 911.

In an unrelated incident, Melanie Ramirez, 28, of Cumming, died as the result of as single vehicle crash on Interstate 75 at about 2 a.m. Monday.

GSP officials said Ramirez was driving a silver Honda Pilot south on I-75 when she wrecked near mile marker 311 in Calhoun.

Gordon Central pays tribute to local heroes at Veterans Day ceremony

Hundreds gathered to salute and pay tribute to veterans at Gordon Central High School on Monday morning. Retired and enlisted military officials and their loved ones were honored with patriotic music, customs and speeches at the Veterans Day ceremony presented by the Gordon Central JROTC.

The 10th annual event is planned and facilitated each year by members of the JROTC program, who select a student to emcee the event, invite speakers, and prepare a schedule for the day. Local men and women who have served in the military are invited to come, be recognized and fellowship with other veterans.

In previous years, guest speakers at the program have included Sgt. Maj. Chon Rosa, an active duty sergeant major stationed in Augusta, and a chaplain from the Battle of Mogadishu, which was portrayed in “Black Hawk Down.” This year, there were two distinct speakers. The first was a portrayal of former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. by former Gordon Central teacher Terry Allee, and the second was retired Col. Robert G. Young.

Young currently serves as an assistant professor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Gordon campus. He enlisted in the military in 1979 and retired in September 2015 after 35 years of service.

His speech on Monday focused on the history of Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and Armed Forces Day. He also spoke about the history of America itself, as well as the importance of the military from the earliest days in American history.

“We have freedoms like no other country in the world,” Young said. “You need to be grateful to live in America. It’s a great country.”

He thanked the veterans in attendance for their service and praised them for upholding the ideals and freedoms our American forefathers fought and strived for — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“We made a political statement to the king in 1776 that said we have the right to be free and independent states. Of course, that was the Declaration of Independence,” Young said. “Our forefathers were saying, ‘Enough is enough.’ There are reasons why we can separate one government from another. There are reasons we deserve to be free.”

After Young’s speech, U.S. Army retired Lt. Col. Mike Mansi, Gordon Central’s JROTC director, was presented with a Quilt of Valor. Quilts of Valor is a foundation with the goal of covering service members and veterans touched by war with “comforting and healing” quilts.

“He served at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Fort Huachuca in Arizona, Fort Gordon, Georgia, 8th Army Korea, Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, Fort McPherson, Georgia, and Fort Leavenworth in Kansas,” said Brenda Park, the leader of the Country Squares sewing group.

Mansi was also deployed to Bosnia, Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan during his time as an active duty serviceman.

During his years of service Mansi received many medals and commendations, including the Combat Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Wings, Air Assault Wings, Meritorious Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with the campaign star, Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the non-commissioned officer professional development ribbon, a NATO medal, overseas ribbon, Army service ribbon, and the Armed Forces Service Medal.

“We honor you for leaving all you hold dear to stand in harm’s way during a time of crisis, protecting us from the effects of war. Next, our quilters know that freedom is not free. The cost of our freedom is the dedication of lives of men and women like you. This quilt is meant to say, thank you for your sacrifice,” said Park.

Mansi said he was honored to receive the quilt and thanked Calhoun for being a city that shows its support for veterans and service-members.

Tiny House Hand Up receives donation of 7.9 acres for tiny home community

The Calhoun non-profit Tiny House Hand Up now has more than half a million dollars in assets thanks to the donation of 7.9 acres of land by Ginger King.

Executive Director Cindy Tucker, Board Chairman Haley Stephens and Kevin Casey, manager of the Tiny House Hand Up store, gathered at the corner of Harris Beamer Road and Beamer Road to check out the property recently.

Tucker said the land will be used specifically to build a tiny home community that will offer affordable housing for area residents. It will not be subsidized or need-based housing, she said, and stressed that potential homeowners will need to qualify for financing just like a traditional home purchase.

“This will be a planned, beautiful community,” she said, noting that each home will be a permanent and will be built according to one of several floorplans.

A tiny house built by the group will be between 350 and 800 square feet, but it will only cost about $100 per square foot to build.

Tucker said this area is great for bringing in industry and providing jobs, but often those jobs are on the lower end of the pay scale. Meanwhile, she said, there is a severe shortage of affordable housing.

The organization was founded three years ago, and since then they have been working to raise money and partnering with builders and suppliers and local governments to see their plan through.

They are currently working with local government officials, USDA Rural Development, Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs and other agencies and organizations on the plan for best developing the donated property.

Stephens said he recently received a pledge of the first $1,000 toward the first house in the community after showing a package with home designs to Ernie Smith of Battlefield Supply. He noted that Tiny House Hand Up does not look to compete with other housing agencies like Habitat for Humanity, but rather provide a more low cost home option that doesn’t exist locally.

“We fill a gap. It truly is a hand up,” he said.

The land donated by King recently could eventually provide space for as many as 40 tiny homes. In addition, the organization will offer classes for homeowners and potential homeowners related to finance, home upkeep and repair. Also, local contractors have offered to provide their services at reduced prices to homeowners in the Tiny House Hand Up community.

The organization is a non-profit and welcomes donations and/or shoppers at their store located at 150 Warrior Path, Suite 3. All funds raised go directly toward providing affordable housing in the community. They also accept donations of building materials or household items.

The group will be hosting a Turkey Jam event on Friday, Nov. 29, at the Elks Club that will include dinner and entertainment. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door and can be purchased at the store, Fitness First or Grandstandz.

For more information, call 770-634-3968.