Barbara Massey Reece

World War II veterans and their family in the region are invited to a reunion lunch Thursday, the anniversary of the D-Day invasion that changed the course of the war.

“We’ve done it on Pearl Harbor Day, but since this is the 75th anniversary we decided to do it now,” said Barbara Reece, one of the organizers along with Odell Anderson, Jon Payne and Chattooga Cooperative Extension Services.

The program will begin at noon at the Chattooga County Civic Center, 44 Highway 48 in Summerville.

Reece said there are 23 WWII veterans on the list she’s been maintaining since the 1990s when she was a state legislator offering annual trips to the capitol in Atlanta.

Most of them are from Chattooga but three are from Floyd County and at least one lives in Walker County. Reece said she feels sure there are others around.

“Veterans Services cannot give us the names of surviving veterans so we just try to pass the word ... We sent word to the (Veterans of Foreign Wars) posts in Gordon and Dalton, and I’ve heard from a guy in Polk,” she said. “He wasn’t in World War II but his brother was and he wants to come. Of course he’s welcome.”

The program is scheduled to be brief, Reece said, to give the veterans time to eat and enjoy the company. Many are in nursing homes or otherwise dealing with health problems, although a few – including famed Chattooga attorney Bobby Lee Cook and Hoyt Williams at Walmart – still work.

Last year 12 attended and, with their families and state and local dignitaries, there were 70 people at the event. Reece said three of those have passed away but others who weren’t there are planning to come Thursday.

Warren Jones and Bob Bennett of Floyd County are expected, Reece said. Jones served in Europe while Bennett was on one of the first ships going in for the occupation of Japan. Howard Touchstone of Armuchee also served in the Navy with his twin brother, she said.

Among the other veterans is Henderson Ponder, a writer and former Summerville tax accountant who spend his WWII tour in Europe trying to locate missing service members. And Billy Locklear, who earned a Purple Heart; and Leo Lanier, who was a prisoner of war in Germany; and Rose Jackson, the only woman on the list.

“I’m pretty sure she was 101 in October,” Reece said. “Lord willing, she’ll be there too. She was a nurse who went into Normandy just a few days after the battle.”

Ryan Adams, an aide to Sen. Johnny Isakson, will have letters of recognition for each veteran. Christie Entrekin, a community volunteer, will read off their names and a bit about their service. They’ll also recognize the families of the three who recently died.

Reece said registration isn’t required but WWII vets who plan to come Thursday should call to ensure their names are included in the program. She can be reached at 706-862-2657, or call Anderson at 706-397-2394.

“All our local Chattooga businesses, and Chick-fil-A in Rome, contribute all our food and paper products, whatever we need,” Reece said. “We’re ready for at least 100.”