The purpose of the banquet was to recognize all veterans who served in all the wars such as WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm/Desert Shield, the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
Sponsored by Maranatha Family Center, in honor of all veterans, the event was a huge success as the evening unfolded. The opening ceremony kicked off with Cheraw High School cadets from the Marine Corps JROTC Color Guard, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer. Patriotic music followed by Ken Rivers and Brad Jenkins, also of Maranatha, sang, “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Pastor, Allen Usher, provided the blessing on the meal as several teens from the Connie Maxwell Children’s Home, youth and adults from the church participated in serving the guests who attended. Also, a memorial military display was draped across the steps of the stage as several people showcased their military photos, flags, medals and uniforms of those who fought for freedom.
The Master of Ceremonies, Chuck Berger, also a Vietnam Veteran, recognized all of the veterans and their branches of service. Berger then introduced several of the guest speakers, which included the keynote speaker of the evening, Nang Nguyen, of Cheraw.
Robert Eldridge of the Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 11 of Florence, was the first one to tell his story.
“I want to talk a little about “wars and scars.” I am a member of the Disabled American Veterans(DAV). In the military, you just don’t retire when defending our freedom. It's a privilege to be able to serve our country and to serve God. I want to say though, there are always scars on both sides of war. We are here to celebrate, not to be sad. Let us not forget the many who have served and are serving our country. For if we do forget, it is then we turn over our freedom,” said Eldridge.
The second speaker, Sam Eubanks, of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce in Bennettsville, highlighted on the numerous opportunities that the agency offers for all veterans.
“We offer veterans an opportunity to find jobs. We can help you find ways to acquire employment if you are a veteran and need and want to work. Veterans usually are those who vow to come to work and are team players,” said Eubanks. Closing his speech, he added, “May God bless America and God bless our veterans.”
Berger, highlighting on Eubanks’ words and prior to introducing the third speaker of the evening said, “As veterans, we have to fight to keep our benefits and to keep them going.”
The third guest speaker was Johnny McQuage, Commander of the VFW Post 10731 in Cheraw.
“We all need to come together as one. We have many different organizations in which we are either members of, or support, such as the VFW, the DAV and others. Look what we could do for the Town of Cheraw if we were all “one.” All I know is that God had his hand on all of you and on me the whole time. We should love one another and not be enemies because we are all here for the same cause.”
The final and keynote speaker was Nang Nguyen. Before introducing Nguyen, Berger said a few words about his own experiences in Vietnam.
“When I served in Vietnam, I was a crew member on a CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter that carried troops and equipment to the fields. We also carried South Vietnamese soldiers who fought with the American soldiers. Here tonight, I want to introduce a man who has contributed to this community and to our country. Many of you may know him from Fatz Café’, Nang Nguyen,” said Berger.
Nguyen looked out at the crowd and with compassion in his eyes said, “I have never spoken before a crowd like this but when Chuck asked me to speak, I told him, yes.” Thinking back, Nguyen continued to highlight on his time as a Marine soldier at the age of 14. “I did fight with the American soldiers when I was 14 years old. Emotions rose as he continued, “This is very emotional for me and the sad thing is, we have no young people here tonight to tell them how it was, so they can understand what war is really about. We already went through the hard part and now we need to share it with the younger generation,” he concluded.
Following his speech, Berger, presented Nguyen with a South Vietnamese flag.
“Nang, I want to present you with this flag of your country before it was taken over by North Vietnam,” said Berger. He also quoted quotes from Abraham Lincoln and highlighted on one in particular, which read, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be destroyed by ourselves.”
Berger also provided attending veterans an opportunity to tell his or her story.
Daniel Davis, a Vietnam veteran who served in the U.S. Navy, read a letter from a marine who also served in Vietnam. Davis also added, “I think this event is the greatest thing that has been done in Chesterfield County for veterans.”
Afterwards, 30 door prizes were also given away and one grand prize, which was in honor of Pastor, Allen Usher’s father, Arthur L. Usher, his wife’s father, John Ingram and a WW II hero, Charles Edward Cameron, a father of one of the members of the church.
“We could not have done this event without those who donated their time and efforts and services,” said Usher.
Those who contributed to the event are as follows:
Johnson’s Old Fashioned Buffet, Praise and Faith Shop, Chesterfield General Hospital, El Sherif’s, Merle Norman, Wannamaker Drug, Kimbrell’s Furniture, Chuck Berger and family, Michael Cassidy Salon, Badcock and More, Bill’s Bar-B-Que, Sammy and Gloria Leviner (in memory of Cpl. Kelly Keith-USMC), Country Kitchen, Pee Dee Outfitters, Fatz Café’, Donna and Ron Harter (in memory of Cpl. Kelly Keith), Jones Furniture and Mayflower Seafood Restaurant.
Usher said that much appreciation also goes to Bi-Lo Grocery, IGA Grocery, and numerous others who provided a portion of the food for the meal.
“We want to thank all who participated in getting this event together and all of those who volunteered their time and efforts to make our first annual “One Nation, under God, Veteran’s Banquet” a true success. We are planning another one for next year,” said Pastor Usher.
As the evening closed with a song written and performed by Ken Rivers entitled, Pray for Our Soldiers, Berger said, “We will remember all of you as well as all veterans, who gave their lives, endured the struggles and hold memories close to their hearts, we wish all of you the best,” said Berger.
Pastor Usher also thanked everyone for attending.