LUMBERTON — Vintage planes and skydiving are planned Saturday as part of a free community event being staged by military veterans at the Lumberton Regional Airport.
The event scheduled for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. is sponsored by the All Veteran Parachute Team. It will offer free hot dogs and BBQ, and a chance to meet retired precision parachutists from the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team. Also to be part of the event are a car show featuring a stretch F-60 limousine and a bouncy house for children. There also will be support groups to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other medical needs, and to help find scholarships and resources for Gold Star families, those that have lost loved ones serving in the military.
Kenneth Wasley is part of a Gold Star family. His father was a member of the Golden Knights parachute team who died in an aviation accident in 1973. Wasley started the nonprofit Children of Fallen Heroes in 2015 to support veteran activities.
“We couldn’t do it without community support,” Wasley said.
Saturday’s event will be a meet-and-greet designed to bring community members together to meet veterans.
Event organizer Michael Elliot, a retired sergeant first class with 26 years of service in the U.S. Army, was an ambassador for the Golden Knights for 11 years.
“I think it’s important that people come together,” Elliot said. “We’re telling the story of what we do. There’s a common understanding among those that risk life daily.”
The Golden Knights team participates in national and international competition events designed to display precision parachuting skills. Saturday’s event will feature retired team members performing a skydiving routine.
The United States Vet Corps will be rappelling from helicopters to show how combat operations work in different situations.
Military history will be in the air as the Raleigh-based Bandit Flight Team puts their World War II aircraft through their paces in a show featuring six styles of Russian and American fighter planes. The flight team is known for national anthem flyovers and Missing Man Flights at military memorial services.
There also will be an opportunity to learn about support for veterans after they return from military service.
“There are 22 military suicides every day,” Elliot said. “People always seem to forget about veterans. But you can’t show a family that doesn’t have a veteran.”
The nonprofits at Saturday’s event help veterans deal with coming back into society after being in the service, helps them deal with PTSD, depression, and the feeling that no one cares. Dancing with Angels gives scholarships for talented dancers who can’t afford school. Members of the U.S. Veterans Corps perform hands-on community services and provide food to veterans’ families in need.
The Veterans Corps also builds homes for veterans and provides a variety of therapies for children, Wasley said.
“Our theme is to ‘Remember, Honor, and Serve.’ We want people to know what nonprofits do to make a difference for vets, first responders, for everyone, to make the country better,” Elliot said.