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AFNORTH personnel help salute wounded warriors

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Ed Staton
  • AFNORTH Public Affairs
For the purpose of continuing to salute America's wounded warriors, members of Air Forces Northern joined other military members and civilians from the Florida Panhandle to pay tribute to injured combat veterans at the Wounded Warrior Salute April 16. 

Honoring 60 American heroes, the events included a motorcade through Panama City streets lined with flag-waving supporters.  Following the parade, the veterans were honored with a patriotic Wounded Warrior Salute at the First Baptist Church of Panama City.

The wounded veterans were welcomed to Florida for a week-long event known as the Warrior Beach Retreat.  The experience provides the injured servicemen and their primary caretakers a period of rest and relaxation on the Emerald Coast through participation in a variety of activities.

"I believe it's important to show our wounded warriors how important the sacrifices they made are," said 1AF/AFNORTH First Sgt. Lorene Kitzmiller. "This is just another way that we can remember them and honor them."

The outpouring of support along the parade route from their supporters clearly had a visual impact on the wounded veterans.  Many of the honorees acknowledged their supporters with enthusiastic waves and smiles as they were driven along the route.

"Every time we do this you can see tears in their eyes and ours," said 1AF/AFNORTH Master Sgt. Kelly Davis. "I like to give back and I've been doing this twice a year for three years."

Gen. Lloyd W. "Fig" Newton (USAF Ret.) was the guest speaker at the salute that also honored Vietnam veterans.  Through the presentation of colors, the National Anthem, recognition of the armed forces and a wounded warrior testimony from Staff Sgt. Daniel and Christen Lowery, the evening was filled with great pride and emotion. 

"It's such an opportunity to give back to these folks who have given everything," said AFNORTH Command Chief Master Sgt.  Ronald Anderson.  "This is stuff that these folks are going to have to live with the rest of their lives.  If I can take an hour in a day, something out of my time just to let them know that I appreciate them, it's an opportunity I'll never miss."

The community outreach to the wounded veterans from all military branches included a great amount of interaction at the event hosted by the church.   Many memories, expressions of thanks, handshakes and hugs were shared while countless photos were taken.

"This whole day has been such an honor," said Staff Sgt. Garfield Pellham (US Army Ret.) who sustained combat injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan.  "It was great seeing people on the streets with their American flags and waving at us.  Tonight's event has been very touching with so many people greeting us."