PADUCAH, Ky. - A calm silence fell over the crowd of veterans, Paducah City elementary school children and 101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Soldiers, as Mayor Brandi Harless of Paducah, Ky. took the stage at the Paducah Convention Expo Center, Nov. 11.
In honor of Veterans Day, the city of Paducah hosted an entire day of festivities and honors as part of a celebration of veterans of all types.Harless described how she and other community leaders, along with leadership of the 101st Sustainment Brigade, had been working together for months, planning and coordinating this special event."About seven months ago, I called one of our local media companies and asked them if they were interested in making a big splash this year for Veterans Day," Harless said. "So we sat down with local partners, the convention center and local sponsors to start brainstorming ideas."We all knew we would love to get the 101st Sust. Bde., 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), involved, and I had been building a relationship with Coronel Stephanie Barton (commander of the 101st Sust. Bde.)," continued Harless. "So we reached out, and before we knew it, we had all these ideas."Harless detailed the specific events and festivities that came out of all of their hard work and planning, outlining the day's activities."We started with a very simple sunrise dedication service, with our local Coast Guard, here, raising the flag as the Paducah Symphony trumpet player, there, for the bugle call; and we had a prayer," Harless said. "Then we came over to the convention center for breakfast, where we hosted over 150 people."We had a ceremony where we presented "Quilts of Valor," or special(ly) made quilts, to veterans for comfort as we thanked them for their service," Harless continued. "We had an award ceremony where we honored both distinguished veterans and a patriot (someone who is not a veteran but who supports veterans). We also had a parade through downtown Paducah, as well as a concert, which featured a community band and the 101st Airborne Division Army Band."Harless also highlighted the Touch-a-Truck event, a special event held that day where elementary school children from around the city were able to explore military vehicles and speak with Lifeliners' Soldiers.
"We had hundreds of children from local elementary schools in the convention center, looking at the different equipment that came from Fort Campbell, experiencing what it might be like to be in service someday and interacting with Soldiers," Harless said.For 1st Lt. Alison Lu, a native of San Antonio and platoon leader for the 101st Human Resources Company, 101st Special Troops Battalion, 101st Sust. Bde., this event meant a lot to her and her Soldiers. Lu spoke about her experience at the convention center as well as her appreciation for the veterans who have served before her."My team and I are here setting up the Very Small Aperture Terminal, which is a satellite that we use to conduct our human resources accountability, causality reports and post operations wherever we are; and it allows us to connect Wi-Fi to our units," explained Lu. "I think it is really great getting to be here and seeing how interested all of the kids are to interact with us and the equipment."Lu said she has great respect for veterans, as well as how important it is veterans know they are cared for."I think it is very important to conduct events with communities like this," Lu said. "I think it's important to bring awareness to the veterans themselves in understanding just how much they have really done, as well as knowing that in this time and age that they do have a lot of love and acceptance from the community. I think it's beautiful to see that here."Harless also recognized the importance of strengthening the relationship between the veterans and community. She spoke highly of the city of Paducah's new partnership with the 101st Sust. Bde."Things all started getting kicked off a couple months ago when I was able to have lunch with Barton, and we began talking about how Paducah was really excited about the possibility of the city becoming an employment center for Soldiers who are coming out of service," said Harless. "We want to make sure that Soldiers at Fort Campbell are aware of all of the employment opportunities available to them at Paducah."Now we have been able to celebrate Veterans Day together, and then next quarter we are actually looking to bring a group of community leaders down to Fort Campbell to see what Soldiers experience and to continue to build upon our relationships," continued Harless.