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Honoring those who served

Ashby Ponds veterans committee working on several projects

Created date

August 3rd, 2016
L-R Chuck Loomis, master of ceremonies; Thomas A. Greason, member of the Virginia House of Delegates, guest speaker; Rev. Carl Hemmer, associate pastor, Ashby Ponds Interfaith Church; Al Beyer, chair, Ashby Ponds Veterans Programs and Activities Committee

L-R Chuck Loomis, master of ceremonies; Thomas A. Greason, member of the Virginia House of Delegates, guest speaker; Rev. Carl Hemmer, associate pastor, Ashby Ponds Interfaith Church; Al Beyer, chair, Ashby Ponds Veterans Programs and Activities Committee

This summer, Ashby Ponds’ Veterans Programs and Activities Committee is on a special mission to honor the more than 250 military veterans who represent all five branches of the armed services and live at the Ashburn, Va., Erickson Living community. These brave veterans served in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and during the Cold War.

“The selfless sacrifices made by veterans of the United States Armed Forces can never be sufficiently acknowledged and honored,” says community member Al Beyer, Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret). “Whether they died in combat or later, those veterans, upon first putting on an Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard uniform, wrote a blank check to their nation for an amount up to and including their lives.” 

Special salute

The kickoff of the summer activities began with the annual Memorial Day program featuring guest speaker Thomas A. “Tag” Greason, delegate to the Virginia legislature, graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and former U.S. Army officer with the Corps of Engineers. 

“Tag is particularly qualified to serve as our guest speaker,” says Al. “He understands the dedication and sacrifices required for military service, the significance of such service, and the deep emotional meaning and impact of a veteran’s death.”

The program, organized by the committee, included a video presentation and memorial service led by community member Carl Hemmer, associate pastor of the Ashby Ponds Interfaith Church. 

Never forget

Over the last few months, Ashby Ponds veterans have also been hard at work capturing video interviews of the community’s veterans as part of the World War II Veterans Project, a program originated by Ashby Ponds community member Raoul Drapeau. 

“For the past few years, I had been going to the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., to photograph and interview the veterans who were there as part of the National Honor Flight Program,” says Raoul.  “I edited the material and produced short documentaries that I uploaded to YouTube so that the vets, their family, and friends would have a memento of their visit.  

“When my wife and I moved to Ashby Ponds, I learned through Al Beyer that there were more than 80 World War II veterans living here.  It seemed sensible to me to transfer my efforts here, rather than continue to make the long trip into town.”

Raoul and his veteran volunteers aim to collect as many of the World War II veterans’ stories as are willing. All of the interviews are filmed, and residents (most veterans themselves) serve as the interviewers who ask veterans to discuss their military experiences, highlighting when and where they served, their duties and specialties, any combat experience, and their most vivid memories.

“We have now interviewed 25 veterans,” says Raoul. “I have prepared a DVD for each veteran for their personal use.”

The next phase of the project consists of reviewing the hours of filmed footage to identify the segments of general interest for a documentary movie, at least one hour long, containing the segments, period music, film clips, and photographs.

“My goal is to have the movie finished by Veterans Day,” says Raoul. “We will make it a part of our annual Veterans Day program and invite all veterans who wish to participate.”

“These men and women are heroes regardless of whether or not they saw combat, for they served at a time of incalculable importance to our nation and the world,” says Al.  “They are truly members of the United States’ greatest generation.”

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