(TULLAHOMA) An afternoon of food, fun and fellowship was on the menu as veterans joined active-duty Airmen from Arnold Air Force Base for the Military Appreciation Day: Past, Present and Future event.
This year's Military Appreciation Day was Oct. 18, 2019 at the Arnold Lakeside Center in neighboring Coffee County. The event is held each year at Arnold AFB as a way to say "thank you" to past and present service members and their families.
Along with a free lunch buffet that included hamburgers, hot dogs and a smorgasbord of sides, event activities included boat rides, horse-drawn buggy rides, cornhole, foot darts and live music.
The event was presented by Arnold AFB Services, the Arnold AFB Personnel office and the Arnold Community Council. It was sponsored by the Air Force Sergeants Association, BlueCross/BlueShield of Tennessee, Compassus Hospice and Palliative Care, and Magnolia Ranch Recovery.
This marked the third year the Military Appreciation Day event was held under the "Past, Present and Future" banner, and it was again open to all military and their family members.
More than two decades ago, the AFSA began hosting a yearly gathering at the ALC for veterans and patients from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Murfreesboro.
As overall military enrollment began to decline, the AFSA was finding it more and more difficult to prepare for the event.
To keep the event going, the Arnold AFB Services and Personnel offices teamed up and began discussing ways to open it up to even more attendees. Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC) team members from these offices came up with the idea of inviting veterans to represent the past, active-duty military to represent the present, and the families of both of these groups to represent the future.
Some of the veterans in attendance this year were brought from the Tennessee State Veterans' Home and the Alvin C. York Veterans' Administration Medical Center, both of which are located in Murfreesboro. Veterans from these facilities were escorted to the ALC by the American Legion Riders - Post 78 out of Manchester and Post 173 out of McMinnville.
Before lunch was served, AEDC Commander Col. Jeffrey Geraghty took to the stage to welcome those in attendance. He said the event was a good way to honor veterans and hear some of their stories.
"It's really a pleasure to have this opportunity to honor veterans from every armed service and from all different conflicts," Geraghty said.
Among those in attendance who shared his story with Geraghty was 92-year-old World War II veteran Arthur Hargrove Sr. He joined the Merchant Marine in 1945 during the war and served in the Pacific Theater. He was in the Philippines when the United States dropped atomic weapons in Japan, leading to the end of the war in December 1945.
After returning home, Hargrove enlisted in the Army Air Forces after receiving inspiration from a recruitment sign featuring Uncle Sam. He served in the Air Forces until January 1949. After getting out of the service, Hargrove sought work as a machinist. He landed a job at Arnold AFB, where he worked for 39 years.
Hargrove was recognized by Geraghty during his introduction, and Hargrove was given a commemorative coin as a token of appreciation for his service.
"I've really enjoyed today," Hargrove said.
Julius Taylor, an Army veteran who was among the numerous attendees, has attended the Military Appreciation event before. He said it is a good way for veterans to get together to chat amongst each other and with active-duty service members.
"I love coming here, because this is just a place where you can come and enjoy yourself," Taylor said.
Master Sgt. Lashonda Morehead, who helped organize this year's Military Appreciation Day, said feedback from attendees was positive, with many commenting on the ideal fall weather the day of the festivities.
"That's one thing we've heard a lot, 'It's a beautiful day. The music is great. The event is great,' and they will be back next year," Morehead said. "They like having the sponsors out here. Veterans like to socialize and talk with the active-duty community."
Geraghty commended the efforts of the volunteers, organizations and sponsors who pulled together to make the event a success and as enjoyable as possible for those attending.
"I can see why people look forward to it," he said. "I can see why they're looking forward to coming back for next year's event."
Along with the sponsors, agencies and organizations on hand to offer services and information to attendees included the Arnold Retiree Activities Office, Met Life, Benefeds, Veterans Choice Program, Military OneSource, Government Employees Health Association, FEP Blue Vision and Dental, Southern Tennessee Regional Health System, Home Instead, VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System and First Choice Health - Tullahoma.