Thursday, 26 September 2019 20:34

Richmond County heroes honored with tree at Cole Auditorium

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HAMLET — The lobby of Cole Auditorium was filled with veterans and community members Thursday morning to honor those who put their lives on the line in the military.

A 14-foot Our Heroes’ Tree tree was decorated with ornaments bearing the names — some with photos — of Richmond County veterans.

The national program was founded in 2005 by Stephanie Pickup and Marlene Lee who “envisioned a ‘national forest’ of trees that would stand any time of year to promote awareness and appreciation of the service and sacrifice of U.S. service members and their families,” according to its website.

The first tree was put up at West Point and, according to the website, there have been similar trees in 30 states and on U.S. military bases in 10 countries.

This is the second year Richmond County has had one at the Cole, said Sheri Dunn-Ramsay, associate vice president of marketing and strategic planning for Richmond Community College.

“It’s a great, feel-good event for the community members to pay tribute to their loved ones who served and sacrificed,” she said. “And it’s a great way to learn about the people in our community and all that they’ve done for us.”

A special program was held immediately following the Council on Aging’s veteran’s breakfast.

“It was a good service, I thought,” said Richard Rankin, who served to tours in Vietnam in the U.S. Navy as a Seabee. “Best one I’ve been to.”

Rankin said he thought putting up the tree was “a good idea.”

Dunn-Ramsay said there was “huge community support” from various agencies, churches, schools and organizations across the county.

There was also help from young people, she added, including students from Richmond Senior High School, the Richmond Early College High School Senate and the RichmondCC Student Government Association.

Dunn-Ramsay said many of the college’s instructors and students are veterans or related to veterans and that many of the younger students weren’t alive for 9/11, Dunn-Ramsay said.

“So their entire life, we’ve been in combat in a foreign country,” she said.

Some of  the ornaments were filled out prior to the event. The VFW Auxiliary, for example, had a table set up during the prior weekend’s Rockin’ for Veteran’s concert.

Richmond County Hospice also had several ornaments that were hung later in the morning.

Dunn-Ramsay guessed that there were probably 700-1,000 ornaments on the tree.

“Each of these names were somebody who signed their name on a line and said that they’re going to fight for you and me, they’re going to fight for our freedom and they’re going to defend our liberties,” she said.

The tree will remain up until Veterans Day.

Dunn-Ramsay said the college hopes to have on the Scotland County campus next year, as well.