DEAR ABBY: In Branson, Mo., in the heartland of America, we embrace patriotism. Not only does our community host the nation's largest Veterans Day celebration -- Veterans Homecoming -- we honor veterans every day. Our Fourth Annual Homecoming (Nov. 5-11) was attended by more than 25,000 veterans, and we spared no effort to make that week of celebration even more memorable than in years past.
Abby, the Branson Veterans Task Force is a nonprofit organization that creates events honoring veterans year-round. Among the major events we have planned for 1999: Branson Remembers -- a Memorial Day tribute; an old-fashioned patriotic Fourth of July celebration for veterans and families; special memorial services for POW/MIA Day; a ceremony to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the VFW; the annual memorial service for the Four Chaplains of the USS Dorchester; and a ceremony during which we place the flag at half-staff to honor veterans of the Korean War. And, of course, there will be the Fifth Annual Veterans Homecoming, Nov. 5-11, 1999. These are just a sample, in addition to numerous military reunions and conventions throughout the year.
Celebrated entertainers who make Branson their home will participate in the special events and services, and give of their time and talents -- Wayne Newton, Tony Orlando, the Lennon Sisters, Mel Tillis, the Osmonds, Jim Stafford and Box Car Willie, to name only a few. They enthusiastically join in the programs to let our veterans of all conflicts know they are truly honored guests.
Our goal is not only to honor those who have served, but also to educate our youth regarding the sacrifices veterans have made to preserve our freedom. An ongoing educational program has been created in our schools that includes many Medal of Honor recipients as guest speakers.
So please, Abby, convey to veterans everywhere that Branson, Mo., honors American veterans EVERY DAY! -- DEBBIE IKERD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
DEAR DEBBIE: Armed conflicts are painful to remember. As time has passed, many Americans have forgotten what was accomplished because of the sacrifices of the members of our armed forces to ensure our comfort, freedom and well-being. However, we must never forget -- or allow our children to forget -- our courageous veterans, both on the battlefield and behind the lines. This includes not only those of World War II and the Cold War that dragged on for decades, but also those of Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama and Desert Storm.
To all the members of the Branson Veterans Task Force: I salute you for keeping the memory alive. It's a pleasure to publicize your efforts on behalf of all veterans.