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Warrior's Weekend group honors all veterans at luncheon

By BY DIANNA WRAY
Oct. 23, 2010 at 5:23 a.m.

Veterans and their families enjoy free barbecue at the first Veterans Appreciation Luncheon and Fair. More than 100 veterans and their families attended the luncheon Saturday afternoon.

WARRIOR'S WEEKENDWarrior's Weekend, which honors soldiers who were injured while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, is set for May 21 in Port O'Connor.

World War II veteran Orby Ledbetter smiled as he watched his fellow veterans mill around the room, eat brisket and greet each other at the Veterans Appreciation Luncheon and Fair.

Ledbetter was one of more than 100 veterans attending the luncheon Saturday afternoon.

"It's great to be honored like this. Kids don't know what we had to go through, what it was really like," Ledbetter said, looking around the Victoria Community Center.

Ledbetter was captured in Italy and spent 19 months in a prisoner of war camp in Poland, before managing to escape.

He didn't have a bath for more than a year. His skin was crawling in lice, and his clothes were so stiff with grit, they could stand up by themselves. Food was scarce, he said, and he and the other POWs survived on bread and water.

He said he and his fellow veterans from all wars appreciate recognition of their service.

"I think it's the best thing in the world," Ledbetter said.

The luncheon, put on by the Warrior's Weekend organization and the VA Clinic, was an effort to acknowledge all veterans, Warrior Weekend volunteer Ron Kocian said.

"It's just important to thank these guys, and let them know they're not forgotten," Kocian said.

The organization has held Warrior Weekend every spring for the last five year, but that event is for injured veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kocian said.

This was their first year to hold the Veterans Appreciation Luncheon for all veterans. Veterans addressed the group, poems were read and a drill team performed, while veterans and their families enjoyed a free meal of barbecue.

Cornell Green, a Vietnam veteran, spoke about the importance of honoring all veterans.

Green, of Yorktown, said he was there because of his son, Sgt. Anthony "Gabe" Green was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Oct. 16, 2009.

Green became involved with Warrior's Weekend after his son's death because he said Gabriel had often mentioned how important it was to help veterans.

"It's hard, but I figure if I can somehow contribute to these veterans' needs with my own experiences, then it can help honor my son," Green said.

Vietnam veteran Manuel Rivera said it was nice to see an organization honoring all veterans.

"It's giving recognition to those who served. It's good to see, because after Vietnam it didn't happen this way, it wasn't like this. It's good to finally be recognized," Rivera said, smiling.

Volunteer Sharon Burns said they do this to make sure the veterans know their service is still appreciated.

"We love our soldiers. We realize freedom didn't come without a price that a lot of these men and women paid, and it's a way to give back to them, to thank them," Burns said.

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