Elkin High School helped Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital celebrate veterans like Fred Norman Sr. as well as a significant number of staff at its Veterans Appreciation Day on Thursday.
“It’s an honor to be here,” said Elkin High School Chamber Singers Director Tonya Smith.
Smith led her students in two pieces including a moving rendition of the National Anthem assisted by the school’s JROTC who presented the colors on the vibrant afternoon.
Retiring to the lobby about 100 guests which included former mayors Tom Gwyn and Fred Norman Sr., current Commissioners Cicely McCulloch and speaker Dr. Skip Whitman, as well as several members of the hospital staff, took a historical lesson from JROTC Cadet Missy Fuentes.
“At the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month, the guns fell silent on what was known then as the Western Front,” said Fuentes, “as the allies and Germany observed the agreement to end this war to end all wars.”
Fuentes continued explaining World War I, which ended 100 years ago, took 8 million lives and wounded another 20 million.
“A generation forever thinned and crippled across three continents,” said Fuentes, “the world map forever altered.
“Nov. 11 of each year is the day that we ensure veterans know that we deeply appreciate the sacrifices they have made to keep our country free,” said Fuentes, who stated that, originally Armistice Day, the name was changed to Veterans Day circa 1947.
“Many Americans mistakenly believe that Veterans Day is the day America sets aside to honor American military personnel who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained from combat,” said Fuentes, clarifying, “Memorial Day is the day set aside to honor America’s war dead.
“Veterans Day, on the other hand, honors all American veterans both living and dead. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank all veterans for dedicated and loyal service to their country.”
One of those veterans was particularly glad for Fuentes’ presentation.
“I like the way that Cadet Fuentes differentiated between Memorial Day and Veterans Day,” said Whitman, who, as a veteran, had a different take on the holiday.
“Veterans Day is a time for celebration,” said Whitman. “It’s a time to celebrate our successes. It’s a time to celebrate the sacrifices and the commitment that our soldiers have made to keep our nation what it is and to keep it free.”
Whitman, who practices with Tri-County Orthopedic and Sports Medicine, was just one of three doctors with the Hugh Chatham family who shared their thoughts with guests.
In addition to Clingman Medical Center doctor and veteran Alex Snyder who shared his uniquely positive military experience during the Vietnam War, Hugh Chatham Family Medicine Dr. Frederick Vorwald, who was responsible for the event, also shared his family’s military history which is ongoing.
“He actually prompted me a couple months ago and asked me what do we do at Hugh Chatham for Veterans Day,” said HCMH CEO Paul Hammes, “and I thought it’s time we do something like this.”
Vorwald confided it was actually the idea of his wife, Nery.
“She’s been thinking about celebrating Veterans Day and in what manner,” said Vorwald. “She came up with ‘We served our country now let us serve you’ and what came of that came the photo of all of us outside,” a copy of which was given to each HCMH veteran.
“Veterans, they have always been a part of my heart. My father was in the Army, my two sons, my father-in-law, my husband,” said Nery, “so just a long history of service in both our families. I’ve always thought that they don’t get the recognition that they should, especially Vietnam veterans.”
Some of the recognition Nery hopes the hospital event will bring is awareness of how many veterans still serve.
“I just think there’s so many veterans in so many parts of our lives that we don’t even know about and in the hospital I think it’s just something that it’s important for patients to know,” said Nery, “especially veterans to know that they have something in common with these doctors.”
“We have so many among us in the Chatham family and in the greater Elkin community who are veterans and beyond that are true community servants,” said Hammes, “and exist to give of themselves freely without counting the cost and making this such a special special place to be.
“That’s why we’re here today, to celebrate Veterans Day and also to celebrate an amazing legacy of service here in this community.”
Chief among those who have served country and community was special guest, Fred Norman Sr.
Drafted during his sophomore year at the University of North Carolina, Norman served as a tank gunner with the 6th Armored Division of the Third Army under Gen. George Patton on D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge.
“He with utter disregard for his own personal safety, under intense mortar, artillery and small arms fire, successfully accomplished three separate trips,” Hammes read from the citation Norman received for one of his two Bronze Stars. “He persisted in the performance of his duty.”
Like many members of the Hugh Chatham family, Norman continued his service to the community including delighting those near him as he sang along with the student chorus.
“Do you see that smile right there?” asked Kevin Cheek, district director for the Laurel District of the Boy Scouts. He has known Norman most of his life through Boy Scouts as well as from the community.
“He is always smiling just like that. That’s just who Fred is.”
To find out more about the army of veterans continuing to serve the Yadkin Valley, go to www.hughchatham.org.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.