Most of us remember the expression that we used to say, but we very seldom use that expression these days. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It was so wrong then and is still wrong today.

Words sprung out of the mouth by an uncontrolled tongue and mind cannot be called back, just as a thrown rock cannot be caught by the thrower. When the Commander in Chief so callously referred to the men and women who chose to join the armed services as suckers and losers, that was an example of words causing pain. The living soldiers and the families of those who are no longer alive were hurt to the core when those words were uttered.

Those men and women participated in some of the most dangerous wars that have ever been fought. All wars even if necessary are necessary evil, and those who serve put themselves in harm’s way for the protection of the freedom loving people of this country and allies in other countries.

Near the front of our house is a gazebo and inside we have hung the flag of Ralph Sams, a deceased brother. The flag that his family was given when he transitioned still serves as a memorial for Ralph, who gave his best years and did not return as a loser or a sucker but as a winner and a hero.

Just before the Commander in Chief allowed those words to come out of his mouth, I had met a lady, Mrs. Nellie H. Applin, who has a heart filled with compassion for veterans and initiated the Veterans Freedom Wall in Kingston some years ago. Mrs. Applin is in the process of writing a book. After speaking with her, I mentioned it to my husband, and he said, “We have a brick walk in the heart of Cave Spring memorializing veterans who fought in various wars over the years. Have you not seen it?”

My answer was “No, I have not seen it.” I thought “How neglectful of me to live in Cave Spring for three decades and I cannot attest to seeing the Veterans Brick Walk.” The next day after our daily walk, we visited the brick walk. As I took each step on the many names inscribed on the bricks, I continued to repeat to myself, “Not a loser and not a sucker, not a loser ...”

My husband just stood quietly and only responded when I asked him a question. The brick walk held the names of two of his brothers and many cousins — some older than him, others his age and some younger. Some were deceased and most are still alive.

Many of them suffered great loss being away from family and friends. Many were away when their children were born, and even as they grew up to be men and women without a father figure to walk with them and hold their hands and secure them with encouraging words.

Many years ago, after being released from the armed services, two cousins, Jerome Sams and Charles Sams, decided to come together on Veterans Day and celebrate their lives with other military families and many who are not connected to the military.

Every year, on or near Nov. 11, they celebrate the good and the bad of being participants in the battles for the freedom and liberties experienced by citizens of this country. The two cousins are the main figures of the celebration.

The celebration is one of great feasting, with food and fellowship. They are usually up all night before the celebration cooking ribs, chicken and all of the sides to go with great feasting. Several times opossum and deer were on the menu. Freshwater fish is fried on demand. The cousins want everyone to feel welcome. There is no limit to how many people can attend.

When the food runs out, it is just out, but very seldom does that happen. Food is usually laid out from one end of the fellowship hall to the other, and sometimes food is in the kitchen just waiting for one of the greatest hostesses of the group to put it out on the serving table. April Sams is a natural born Hospitality Queen who handles the inside food along with her helpers.

There are always some exciting activities on the agenda from wine tasting to a who can cook the best chitterlins contest. When Charles and J-Rome are around there is never a dull moment.

A main part of the celebration is the saluting of the flag and a prayer by the chaplain. From the beginning to the closing event, the veterans rehash Army experiences with each other. Charles said it is a time to eat drink and be merry. Those who cannot handle the outside elements are invited to remain inside for fellowshipping. The celebration is held at the Sams’ Cabin near Little Cedar Creek which, at one time, was the home place for one of the Sams Family.

This year COVID-19 is standing in the doorway blocking the celebration. Maybe next year the Sams Vets Troupe will probably come together for the celebration of 2021 Veteran Day the Sams’ way.

Willie Mae Samuel is a playwright and a director in Rome. She is the founder and director of the African American Connection of the Performing Arts Inc. and a 2020 Heart of the Community Award of Honor recipient.

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