02/12/18 — Local church hosts veterans

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Local church hosts veterans

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 12, 2018 5:50 AM

There was a large helping of good-natured rivalry between branches of the military on Saturday at St. Joseph Free Will Baptist Church, but even more prevalent was a lot of pride and respect among the ranks.

Pastor Les Capers' church opened its doors for the special military appreciation and information service, with hopes it will become an annual event.

Robert Freeman -- retired Air Force after a 21-year career, followed by a nine-year stint teaching Junior ROTC in high school and serving as liaison between Seymour Johnson and the public schools -- showed up to hear guest speaker Sen. Don Davis' message.

"Basically to hear if there's some information that the senator has that the VA (Veterans Administration) has not put out there," he said. "The VA, even for me, looking at it I'm concerned about what it does for folks with serious disabilities."

Folks like Raymond Rogers -- retired Army, a Vietnam vet and Green Beret, "so he's been in real combat," Freeman pointed out, along with Kenneth Raymond Moore, one of the elder statesman in the group.

"He was one of the original triple nickel, 555 parachute regiment, they used to call them the smoke jumpers. (Moore) was also part of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, black rangers, they were only in existence for seven months, so he was highly decorated, in the Army."

Rogers was holding court, appearing to be signing up folks for something.

"I'm just sitting here taking notes," he clarified, taking advantage of the opportunity to network and enlist esteemed colleagues like Moore to speak to Rogers' group, the DAV, or Disabled American Veterans.

Rogers and Wayne Smith, senior vice commander, belong to the Wayne County Chapter 45 DAV.

"I'm here to see what kind of things are happening for the veterans on Capitol Hill," said Smith, retired Air Force with 21 years of service. "I was in the Vietnam (war) and Desert Storm. I've been all over the world.

"From the things we hear here, we can take back to our members of our chapters."

Davis also had his own military ties -- including 15 years active duty in the Air Force and being a 1994 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy.

He began his remarks by asking if there were any World War II veterans in the crowd. Rachel Moore motioned for her husband, admittedly hard of hearing, so he could stand.

Kenneth Moore announced that he had received a Purple Heart as well as Bronze Star, before telling the senator, "I know you but you don't me," unwittingly closing the gap when he shared his son's name, Rayford Moore.

Davis was visibly taken aback, letting the audience in on the realization.

"His son actually worked for me at Andrews Air Force Base," Davis said. "Let me tell you about your son -- your son could cook a mean steak."

Before including his former colleague's mother in the conversation with a "big hug," Davis lauded the veteran for his service.

"I'm truly glad to be in your presence," he said. "This is the essence of military service, because we're all part of a military family."

Davis' message centered around connecting-the-dots for active duty and military veterans with the state of North Carolina, which is at an interesting point in its history, he said.

"As we see at times our politics may be divisive and ugly but in the midst of it all I'm reminded it's those who have worn the uniform and continue to wear the uniform, that don't get the opportunity to weigh in," he said.

He spoke of several bills in the works within the General Assembly, including Senate Bills 62 and 63.

Senate Bill 63 requires the Military Affairs Commission to put together a strategic plan of how to protect the state from the next round of BRAC, or base realignment and closure. That could happen as early as 2019, Davis said.

Senate Bill 62 focuses on services to veterans, he said, and will be a "real opportunity" to address such areas as PTSD and TBI, or post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, as well as suicide.

"I'm really proud of this work and proud that we as a state have moved up. This is a really big deal," he said. "It hasn't made all the headlines but it's real significant."

Efforts have also been made, and adopted into law, for the month of November to be Veterans History Awareness Month in N.C.

This is important, the senator explained, because oftentimes students are out of school on Veterans Day and yet are glaringly absent at ceremonies to commemorate the occasion.

The goal is to require DPI, or Department of Public Instruction, to work with military organizations to get veterans into the schools throughout the month of November to work with teachers and share with students.

Davis also talked about how North Carolina has been ranked No. 1 by Forbes Magazine for being the best state in which to do business.

"Our military is our second largest industry in the state of North Carolina, it's only second to agriculture," he said. "We must, absolutely must, continue to protect our military assets in North Carolina. Our military industry produces over 778,000 jobs with an economic impact of over $66 billion in gross product.

"We have nearly 800,000 veterans. I would not be surprised if that number, next time it's updated, would come in at over a million veterans in North Carolina."