Welcome home, soldiers! Poplar Bluff VA to host celebration honoring all veterans

Tuesday, September 4, 2012
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What started as a small celebration to honor young veterans has expanded to include all American soldiers. The fifth annual Welcome Home Celebration will be Saturday, Sept. 29, at the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center in Poplar Bluff, Mo. The event is free and open to all.

"The original focus of the event was for welcoming home folks who served in Afghanistan and Iraq," says Craig Barwick, a social worker at the VA who coordinates the Welcome Home Celebration. "We felt like a lot of veterans who had been deployed at different times didn't necessarily get a welcome home when they got back, and they were certainly entitled to one. So we decided to expand the event and open it up to honor all veterans who have ever served."

The celebration will be on the shaded grounds of the VAMC from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Attractions will include a car and motorcycle show, live music, military vehicle displays, an art show, patriotic displays and food. There will be a bounce house and face painting for kids, as well as craft, cooking, archery and other demonstrations from the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

At 10 a.m., veterans will be honored in an opening ceremony, which will also include guest speakers and music.

"One part in the program that is really neat is the induction of veterans into the Wall of Valor that we maintain here at the VA," says Barwick. Eight veterans will be inducted into the Wall of Valor, which profiles veterans honored for valorous and heroic actions in combat. Photos and write-ups on each veteran line several walls in the VA, including all of the waiting rooms and the main lobby.

"It makes the hair on your neck stand up to read what some folks did," says Barwick.

For more information on the event -- or details on featuring your own car, motorcycle or music at the celebration -- contact Barwick at 573-778-4458.

"It's a relaxed, fun, family-oriented kind of day," says Barwick. "We would love for as many people as can fit to be here to honor our veterans."

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