I am sure many have heard of the special recognition of war veterans at Branson, Mo., and that it has the reputation of doing more for veterans than any city in the United States.
My wife and I have gone there for several years and have enjoyed and appreciated what they do for us. I would like to share some of what we experienced this year.
As you all know, Veterans Day was Friday.
For Branson, it became Veterans Week. This year it began Nov. 5 and continued through Veterans Day. Veterans from all wars can be found there from those of us from World War II to the present. A number of reunions occur from the different wars as well as unit get-togethers.
We spent a day at Silver Dollar City, located five miles west of Branson, where there were are all kinds of things to do. There were a number of shows ranging from westerns to classical music.
There were many sights to enjoy, various crafts and even a train ride, boat ride and more. Since it is the Christmas season, many of the entertainers presented Christmas programs.
There was an outstanding presentation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" with top-notch singers.
There was a huge Christmas tree located at the entrance of Silver Dollar City that is five stories tall. It has lights of all colors that are coordinated with music.
Here were some of the highlights of the week: Reveille and Retreat daily at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., a Candlelight Memorial Service, a Day Room provided by Factory Merchants, a POW/MIA Service of Remembrance, a Gold Star Mother and Blue Star Mother Brunch (for mothers who have lost a child and mothers who have a child now serving), a Women Veterans Reunion, a Veterans Day Parade, a half-scale replica of "The Wall" in Washington, which includes 58,000 names of our nation's fallen heroes of the Vietnam War, a Veterans Memorial Garden and a Veterans Memorial Museum.
Last Thursday, Walmart gave a tribute to veterans in Branson. There was a short ceremony and entertainment. Veterans received "We Thank You" medals and a free barbecue meal.
We also heard a presentation by a retired Army colonel who had served 37 years.
The colonel spoke about the different shows that were available. I really liked when he said, "I can take my children to any of the shows and not wonder about its contents."
Many of the shows invite vets without charge and give discounts to wives of vets. We went to Jakov Smirnoff's funny show at no cost for me and half price for my wife, Virginia.
The highlight for many of the veterans occurred on Veterans Day with a tribute concert by Tony Orlando. Orlando, who is a veteran, offered his first free Veterans Day show to an audience of 600 in 1993, and the show now has evolved into what is called Veterans Homecoming week.
Orlando had his Yellow Ribbon Salute this year on Veterans Day at the Lawrence Welk Auditorium, which seats 2,700, and every chair was taken with others standing.
Why does he call it the "Yellow Ribbon" salute? Years ago, he was asked by Bob Hope to go to an event in Texas and sing the song, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree," which he did, not thinking it would be so well received by members of the military. Think of the words and you will understand why it became so popular with the military.
The first lines of the song are, "I'm comin' home; I've done my time, now I've got to know what is and isn't mine. If you received my letter, tellin' you I'd soon be free, then you'll know just what to do if you still want me."
The crowd enthusiastically asked him to sing it, and he did and asked the crowd to sing with him. A Yellow Ribbon of Freedom medal was placed in every chair for each veteran and wife. As we left the auditorium at the end of the afternoon, there was a yellow ribbon tied around one of the oak trees.
Mike Huckabee was at the show, which was shown on Fox News on Saturday and Sunday evenings. Huckabee did a marvelous job of answering questions and speaking up for the best interests of the military and veterans.
I know I might sound like a Branson recruiter. We have gone to Branson for Veterans Week several times and appreciate so much what they do for us. It is difficult, if not impossible, to know what it is like to be a combat veteran.
Our history books largely have forgotten us. It makes one feel appreciated when people come and say "thank you." For example, a young lady left a parade simply to say "thank you," and it was very meaningful.
I am proud to be a veteran of World War II.
Arris Johnson is a member of the Generations Advisory Group.