Veterans honored by state officials with medals
by Kenny Farmer
PELL CITY — Men and women were honored for their service Friday during a ceremony at the Col. Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home. Medals were presented to the veterans by state Sen. Gerald Dial, state Rep. Jim McClendon and Ronald J. Creel, president, founder and CEO of the Alabama Sports Festival Foundation.

“It was just an honor to be able to stand in front of a bunch of heroes,” McClendon said. “To see them in their very comfortable home, to be able to give them an award and just partial recognition for what they’ve done for our country and their country and their family and our families, I am ever so flattered to have been a part of this.”

The ceremony was organized by the Alabama Sports Festival Foundation, a mentoring organization that works with school-aged children across the state as a part of its “Honoring Our Heroes” program.

Creel said his foundation honored the men and women of the Veterans Home for two reasons. The first is because the men and women “all made sacrifices to keep this country safe and free.” The second is to remind children that there are people who are out “making sacrifices for them.”

“It goes hand-in-hand, we’re honoring our veterans and we’re including our young people,” Creel said. “You can never honor a veteran enough.”

Each year the foundation honors a different group as part of the “Honoring Our Heroes” program. In the past, they have honored other groups, including law enforcement, firefighters, EMS personal and veterans of the Korean War.

“It was a good ceremony,” Navy veteran and Opp native Ralph Parker said. “When I go to any service like this, it means a lot to me.”

The Alabama Legislative Medals of Honor that were presented to the veterans Friday were established when House Joint Resolution 5 was passed by both houses of the Alabama Legislature and was signed by Gov. Robert Bentley on Feb. 28, 2012.

“For them to think about us makes me appreciate everything that I went in to serve for,” said Lorenzo Burke, who served in the U.S. Army from 1958 until 1961. “I’m in a beautiful place and I really couldn’t ask for more.”

Burke was one of many to praise the overall quality of the Veterans Home following the ceremony.

“What a great facility,” Dial said. “Alabamians have to be proud of what we’re doing to honor our veterans, and take care of them. Somebody said one time that you can judge a country by how well you take care of your brothers. We ought to be extremely proud in Alabama — nobody does more for their veterans and takes better care of them than we do.”

McClendon, who spoke during the ceremony, continues to be impressed by the facility as well.

“We’re fortunate to have this in Alabama, and in Pell City,” he said. “It makes for a great place for all these guys and gals to get together and tell their stories.”

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© 2013