The “Armed Forces Appreciation Day” event will take place on May 21 in Houston

The second annual Armed Forces Appreciation Day is set for Saturday, May 21 at the Houston Area Chamber of Commerce Fairgrounds on US 63 North.

Led by Houston’s American Legion Post 41, the event will take place on National Armed Forces Day and is meant to show respect for members of all branches of the U.S. military, past and present. The chamber and several Texas County veterans groups, including VFW Post 473 in Cabool and VFW Post 6337 in Licking, as well as the local Fleet Reserve Association, help make this day possible.

Scheduled activities and attractions include a presentation of the colors by the Missouri Honor Guard, live music, a special guest speaker, a tractor show by the Ozarks Older Iron Club in Cabool, drawing for prizes (including an AR-15 rifle) and a free meal served to veterans and their family members. Fort Leonard Wood personnel will also be on hand to provide various demonstrations.

“It’s a day for veterans,” said Station 41 commander Bob Joens, who served in the military from 1961 to 1965 and was stationed in Germany during the construction of the Berlin Wall. “Everything we did to plan this was done for them.”

“It’s important to recognize people who have served,” said Post 41 member Julius Fraley, “no matter where or when.”

Representatives from the Veterans Administration (VA) will be on hand to discuss issues with veterans and possibly provide guidance and solutions. Gold Star family members are also encouraged to attend (widows and other family members who have lost loved ones to military service).

Few World War II veterans are still alive, but there are expected to be one or two.

“They need to know that we still recognize and appreciate what they did,” Fraley said.

Post 41 members raised more than $16,000 for the event through donations from area businesses, organizations and individuals. There are 85 sponsors, whose names will be displayed on a large sign.

“We didn’t see any frowns anywhere,” said Post member Bob Simpson, a former Navy chief electronics technician who helped lead the fundraising effort. “We had smiles everywhere we went, whether we received a donation or not.”

While all veterans will be honored at the event, the focus will be on Vietnam War veterans, as this year is designated as the 50and anniversary of this conflict. March 28 was National Vietnam Remembrance Day and Post 41 held an event especially for Vietnam veterans.

“It’s the biggest group of veterans left,” Simpson said. “During the current period, they have not received any honor, and many of them are bitter about it. I have never fought, but I was there during that time and they told us not to travel in evening dress because of the problems that we could encounter.

“Fortunately, it mostly reversed.”

The event also represents a valuable opportunity for veterans to interact with each other.

“The big thing about this is that it creates camaraderie among veterans,” said Post 41 member Rudy Blahnik. “A lot of them are fighting a war in their heads, and they need other veterans who to contact to help ease the pain, as a civilian cannot understand what it is to be in combat.”

Kim Wolfe, a member of Post 41, was a flight nurse in the Air Force for 16 years and has deployed many times to multiple locations, including Bosnia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. She is the daughter of Station Warrant Officer 41 Ron Jones, who is also curator of the Texas County Military and Historical Museum in Houston.

Wolfe said it’s been great to have veterans from around the area in one place because it’s like being with family.

“We all have our war stories,” she says, “and it’s hard to explain them to civilians. It’s great to be in a group of people who have served and gone through something similar to what you went through.

The event is not limited to people living in Texas County; veterans and their loved ones from anywhere are welcome.

For more information, call 417-967-2220.

ARMED FORCES DAY

Although not an official holiday, Armed Forces Day was created in 1949 to replace separate days recognizing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines of the United States. It now includes Coast Guard and Space Force reconnaissance and falls annually on the third Saturday in May.

President Harry S Truman was instrumental in the creation of the Multi-Branch Recognition Day, and the announcement of its implementation was made by Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson. The day was first celebrated in 1950.