Thanking our Service Men & Women

by Terry Martin-Back

Over fifteen years ago, an idea was brought to fruition: an appreciation banquet to recognize veterans and supporters for their efforts within the community. A pot-luck dinner was organized with an expected thirty or forty people to attend. The dinner was such a success that over one-hundred people attended! The success also created a bit of a problem….. the food ran out! It was then decided a bigger venue was in order.

Since the first appreciation dinner, attendees were mostly veterans and family members, veteran organizations and members of the VA hospital. The recognition dinner had become a banquet at local hotels where the attendance became almost five-hundred people, and it quickly became a formal affair with all the military pageantry.

The event has always been open to the public, but was never seriously promoted, and now with an aging veteran community, attendance has dwindled and many becoming bored with the same old recognition ceremony. The committee which comprises of-Jim Lynch as committee chair, Debra and Terry Martin-Back, Sandy Golden, Alan Schlinder, Bill Pokorny, worked together to organize the program.

The committee wanted a fun event that would also raise funds and where the public could become more involved and aware of who the Alachua County Veterans Memorial Committee are, and what the Veteran Recognition banquet is.

Local business sponsors included, Forrest Meadows Funeral Home, Jim Lynch, Disabled American Veterans, EXIT Realty Producers, Subway, Dean Beckman, University Air Center, Burkhardt Distributing and Good Life Community Magazine.

The event, named, The Alachua County Veterans Award Banquet, recognizes those who go above and beyond supporting veterans and the veteran community. The event has become a major fundraising program which supports the maintenance and repair of county veteran memorials. The average citizen is unaware, veteran memorials are built with private and corporate donations and not tax payer dollars, and only remain in place at the pleasure of the county commission.

This years banquet was held at University Air. The airfield had a police helicopter and US Navy chopper. University Air offered plane and helicopter rides and flight simulator experience to guests. Local car enthusiasts and car clubs, brought their vehicles for display. The Aircraft hanger was transformed into a banquet hall and everyone enjoyed a barbecue dinner.

Over $5000 after expenses, was raised to go towards The Veterans Memorial Committee Project Fund.

We look forward to seeing you at next years event. The Veterans Memorial Committee is seeking volunteers who want to assist in creating a bigger, better and memorable event for years to come, after all, this is our Good Life community.