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News Community Booster Club salutes veterans in Panther Pit

World War II veteran Wymer Guest was honored with a quilt in front of the packed stands of the Panther Pit Friday night during the Salute to Veterans ceremony. Visitors from around WNC were on hand to thank all veterans for their service to the United States.Fourth annual event focus on Vietnam war veterans.

Before Franklin's Friday night football game against the Swain County Maroon Devils, the fourth annual Salute to Veterans event took place at the Panther Pit to honor the veterans of the United States military from World War II through the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. With all eyes on the track where the veterans were seated, attendees were treated to a meaningful celebration of remembrance for the service that the veterans have given their country.

Members of the Franklin High School Booster Club have worked hard to make the event a reality over the years. Rhonda Blanton said that the first event was about two years in the making once she decided to honor veterans. Each year a different war has been chosen to be the focal point of the ceremony with this year's being the Vietnam War.

“Vietnam specifically stands out to me because I remember people that I knew just suddenly having to go. I had cousins and neighbors being sent off to fight this war and I just remember crying and crying,” said Blanton.

The community and the veterans have been grateful for the ceremony ever since its inception. Tommy Cabe, who is a booster club member and Naval veteran who served in Vietnam, spoke of the gratitude he felt on behalf of the local veterans.

“I can say as a veteran that I'm very thankful for this ceremony,” said Cabe. “Vietnam was an unpopular war here in the states. People didn't want it so it's nice to be able to show these veterans now that we are thankful for their service to the country. We've always honored World War II vets because we are losing them. We have to show these people thanks while we can.”

An event like this doesn't just come about overnight. It takes preparation and valuable time to make everything come together.

“We started planning back in January,” said Blanton. “We have to thank the members in the community that help us and especially Blue Ridge for providing music all of these years.”

Salute to Veterans has proven to be a popular event in WNC over the last few years with various football opponents taking note when they travel to the Panther Pit.

“We have so many people from the visiting side compliment us on what we do for the veterans at the football game,” said Blanton. “Each year we have teams that actually ask if they can play Franklin on the Friday night of Salute to Veterans. Usually a lot of the people from the visitor stands come over to the home side to watch and participate. It gets a great reception.”

Now that this year's 'Salute' has come to a close the organizers have already begun to contemplate what next year's is going to look like.

“We've been talking to the Wounded Warriors about working a fundraiser together so we may be able to honor them along with the other veterans next year,” said Blanton.

“I can tell you this, as long as we're still here we're going to keep honoring these veterans,” added Cabe.


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