“I try to attend every year; it’s just an enjoyable time to see old friends. It brings back a lot of memories,” the 88-year-old Crow said.
With the meal drawing to a close, those unable to be at this or any dinner with their loved ones because they were or are prisoners of war or missing in action were honored with the missing-man ceremony, during which a table with five empty place settings and chairs remain empty as a hat symbolizing each branch of the service is placed and a single candle is lit. Members of the Barren County High School Junior ROTC presented the ceremony, as well as a rifle-handling drill.
Retired Army Col. James M. Drake, the evening’s guest speaker, recognized two “special” veterans of the 623rd – Robert A. Lessenberry and Joe Lane Travis – before momentarily switching gears to the next generation. He said he didn’t think there was anything “junior” about the job the ROTC members did.
“It’s wonderful to see that kind of leadership coming on,” Drake said.
He pointed out that Veterans Day is observed on the 11th day of the 11th month to commemorate the day in 1918 “when the guns fell silent across Europe,” marking the time troops could soon begin coming home from World War I.
“But they didn’t stay silent long,” Drake said, speaking briefly of the issues that led to World War II and quoting accolades for those veterans.
Drake, who served during active duty with the 173rd Assault Helicopter Company outside DaNang, Vietnam, and later became a full-time staff member of the 623rd for eight years, including time as its executive officer, eventually made his way after military retirement to serve in the Kentucky Military Affairs and Veterans Affairs departments, among other roles. His wife Ruth, a Barren County native, accompanied him to Sunday’s dinner.