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Larson: For many veterans, service never ends

You never know who you might meet or what you might learn at a Task Force Patriot meeting. TFP, founded by Jim Freeman of Lilburn, gives men and women of our military a way to connect with one another. The membership includes veterans of WWII to those currently serving in all branches.

One of TFP's more senior members is Dutch Van Kirk, navigator and only surviving member of the crew of the Enola Gay. Van Kirk didn't leave his Stone Mountain home for the last TFP meeting, but several ROTC cadets from Stone Mountain High School did. I felt honored to eat dinner next to Joslyn Wortham, who as a teenager is already serving her country.

NOTE

The next TFP meeting, which will honor WWII Veterans, is Dec. 3. For more info, visit www.taskforcepatriot.com).

Sgt. Chuck Westrick, who just came home for a short leave, presented Freeman with an American flag that was flown in Afghanistan in honor of TFP.

I was honored to meet Mike Sturgill, an Air Force veteran who served for 21 years as an emergency medical technician.

"I was the personal paramedic for both the first President Bush and President Clinton," Sturgill told me.

The speaker for the evening was Col. Robert Certain, an Air Force veteran who flew a B-52 during the Vietnam War. Certain was shot down during his 52nd mission and held for 100 days as a POW. An Episcopal minister who once served as chaplain to President Gerald Ford, Certain now uses his experiences to help others ease emotional pain. He realized over the years that anniversaries often trigger memories of traumatic events and has written a book, "Unchained Eagle," to help others deal with any post-traumatic experiences. Certain currently serves as an advisor to the U.S Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in the area of mental health.

For 11 years now, every meeting has been memorable; particularly in the diversity of military folks whose common bond is their love of their country. And it is only because of Jim Freeman and his wife, Peggy that these opportunities for camaraderie came about. In recognition for his efforts, The Philadelphia Winn chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution will present Freeman with a DAR Community Service Award this afternoon at its monthly meeting.

"The award is given in recognition of outstanding contribution to the community through civic, benevolent, or heroic acts by citizens from a variety of walks of life. We are delighted to present this award to Maj. Freeman in recognition of all he has done to serve Georgia veterans. The ceremony is even more special to us because we are able to award it the week of Veterans Day," Beth DeLorme, DAR regent said.

Nice timing. But any day of any week of any month is always a good time to recognize and thank those who serve our country.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.