One local church will play host to a Veterans Day celebration on Sunday that will honor members of their church community and others who served in the military.
East Pine Grove Park United Methodist Church, 2215 E. Unaka Ave., along with Otterbein and West Market Street United Methodist churches, all part of the Johnson City Cooperative Parish, will come together to participate in the service starting at 11 a.m.
Jim Paris, an Air Force veteran and coordinator of the Veterans Day activities, said he had been busy gathering items for the celebration, including military uniforms and old photographs of veterans from the East Pine Grove Park church community, to display for their second Veterans Day service at the church.
“I just procured the uniforms and the POW and the American flags and the display of the photographs, so the family members of those that are gone will still have something to remember them by as they come by,” Paris said.
He said of there are 41 plaques featuring photographs of the veterans. They include four sets of fathers and sons, one set of brothers and one husband and wife who were veterans. That couple was Paris and his wife, Wanda.
Paris, who was a gunner on an AC-130 gunship in the Air Force and lost a total of 52 fellow crew members during his tours, said Sunday’s service was set up to help keep the memory of those lost in military service alive.
“I like to make sure that they’re not forgotten, especially those that are deceased or those that didn’t return,” he said.
Lon Tobin, East Pine Grove Park’s pastor said the service, which will feature a ceremony by a local Rolling Thunder chapter, also will honor veterans from the congregation.
Tobin, who served in the Navy from ’68-71, said he was excited the Veterans Day service was happening again this year and that last year’s first service went over so well, they’ve decided to keep the event going on each year.
“We like to open it up to the community for anybody that wants to remember the military and the sacrifices,” he said. “It’s not just the military, it’s the families, too, because when you lose a veteran the whole family ... loses somebody pretty special to them, so this is something that brings our congregation community together.”
Tobin said he feels there is thin line in the church between religion and patriotism, but both have their place.
“To totally separate the two is a mistake, because many of our veterans came from churches and families and communities,” Tobin said. “Regardless of what people think of the politics involved, these men and women gave their time out of their lives and, in many cases, their lives ... to honor our nation and to give us the liberties we have.”
Tobin said he hopes the Veterans Day event at the church will not only be a time of remembrance and reflection, but also a time of hope.
“I hope this celebration will be a way that people can more fully embrace our recent history and come to grips with some difficult years and to know that there was positive that came out of it,” Tobin said.