Veterans appreciation event is a special evening for many – Salisbury Post

The veterans appreciation event is a special evening for many

Published at 12:10 PM on Thursday, June 27, 2024

SALISBURY — “A Night at the Park” was an evening to celebrate and honor, enjoy softball and food and socialize with each other.

Although the June 24 event was a scheduled American Legion Ladies Fast Pitch Softball game against the Davidson Seniors team, it was much more.

Held at Whitley Softball Field on the Catawba College campus, this was their annual Veterans Appreciation Night, where veterans come and are recognized and celebrated.

Before the match, the veterans were accompanied onto the field by the girls from both teams. Their name, rank, branch of service and the war in which they served were all announced, and when they were all assembled on the field, honor guard members, Commander Tom Duncan, Lewis Reid, Bob Price, Andy Andrews and Jeff Vail, presented the colors that followed. by singing the national anthem.

This evening is a “super special opportunity for our girls to understand the sacrifices these men and women have made for us,” said Allie Lyerly, coach of the Rowan American Legion Post 342 Ladies Softball team. “And it’s a great opportunity to shake hands with the veterans and thank them for what they’ve done for us.”

The team members had gone to a veterans breakfast to extend a special invitation, and they made sure to welcome them in the evening, said Josie Blong, who volunteers to help with the event.

On this particular night, Vietnam veteran Cecil Whitley was given the honor of throwing out the first pitch, and it was especially meaningful because the one who caught the ball was his granddaughter Blakley Gantt.

Cecil’s wife Nan said it meant a lot to him.

The veteran originally scheduled to throw the first pitch of the game was 97-year-old World War II veteran John Cauble; However, due to injuries he sustained in an accident, he was unable to attend.

Cauble and the Whitleys are neighbors, they said, and Cecil was instrumental in helping get Cauble to throw out the first pitch, said Queen Williams, a veteran and member of Post 342. “We had all that planned. ‘

However, plans had to change and Nan said she asked her husband, “Do you want to throw it away?”

And his response was, “I certainly do.”

Standing up and helping when needed is something Cecil has done numerous times while serving his country in the military, leading soldiers in Vietnam and by serving his community.

And the family is no stranger to the baseball/softball field, as Nan coached softball at Catawba College for 37 years, their son-in-law is American Legion and Catawba baseball coach Jim Gantt, and their daughter played and Cecil Though he couldn’t in college playing, he helped with parks and recreation tournaments after completing his education and law degree.

It was also special for his granddaughter to be behind the board. After catching that first pitch, the two hugged, and Blakley said being able to do this made me feel special. It made me feel happy. It made me feel like he really wanted me to be there for him to do that.

Lyerly said seeing him throw that pitch was super special for the two of her because she played for Nan at Catawba. So it was “super special to see him come here and throw the first pitch.”

And it all happened on the field named after him and his wife, Williams noted.

The whole evening was special for the veterans, because Cecil said, “It is an honor for all the veterans to be able to come. Without the veterans, we would not have the freedom that we have in our country.”

“Thanks to them we can celebrate here tonight,” Williams said as she welcomed everyone.

This event started in 2017, the first year of Legion Ladies Softball, said Blong, whose father is on the American Legion softball board, her grandfather is a Post 112 commander and her husband is a veteran.

Blong said this event is more than just a time to come out and play a softball game, but an opportunity to create community among the girls.

“They are doing this for a greater purpose,” she said. “They are part of something bigger than just the Rowan County community, but serving the veterans.”

Not only were veterans recognized on the field, but they were also treated to a free barbecue dinner while watching the game.

It was also special for Nazareth Child & Family Connection to be able to serve as a sponsor for the recognition evening, according to Hugo Crigler, Development Director at Nazareth:

“It’s fantastic. It’s fantastic for the veterans. Everyone wants to do everything they can for the veterans because they mean so much to us. We at Nazareth, we feel that,” he said.