FreedomFestival

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GRAVOIS MILLS - Pictures of fallen soldiers, their military uniforms, artifacts, books and other belongings were on display Monday as the VFW and Auxiliary Post 5178 held their first Family Freedom Festival.

Eldridge Welch, the commander of the post, said it was a way to honor fallen heroes for giving the ultimate sacrifice.

“This is the remembrance of the soldiers that have stood up and said 'I will defend the rights of the people. And I will defend the constitution of the United States,' and those are the people who have given the full measure of their resolve and their fortitude,” Welch said.

The event also paid tribute to others who never made it home.

On the stage was a "Missing Man Table." It had six plates with military hats on top. A sign said, “An empty table set for six represents those missing from each of the five services and civilians, symbolizing that the missing are present in spirit."

The Family Freedom Festival also included a 21-gun salute conducted by the American Legion Honor Guard.

Janet Barlar, veterans and family support chairman, said the event was needed to show the community what auxiliaries do.

“It's just a way to promote our programs and for people to realize that we're out there, and, if anyone’s interested and eligible, to please join us,” she said.

The auxiliary consists of men and women who are immediate family members of veterans who have served in combat overseas.

“The post and the auxiliary work together to support a lot of different programs for our veterans. And the auxiliary side, we have veterans and family support we have scholarship, hospital, youth activities,” Barlar said.

Welch says the next event the VFW is planning is during Flag Day, when it will host a ceremony for prisoners of war. 

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