Who doesn’t love apple pie? Who gives away hundreds of pieces of the sweet treat? Members at Grace Polaris Church do, especially when it honors the men and women who have served the U.S. in the military.
Each year, Grace Polaris, a Grace Brethren congregation on the north side of Columbus, Ohio (Mike Yoder, lead pastor), honors military veterans with the Legacy of Honor program. Legacy of Honor, which marked its 10th year on November 2, brings in nearly 1,000 patriotic people with one goal – to celebrate America and the liberty that they have the privilege to enjoy. Over the years, they have emphasized different eras – World War II, Vietnam, military families, etc. “This year it was just to celebrate our nation at a time when politically things are so difficult and full of turmoil, said Wes Turner, organizer and master of ceremonies.
In addition to the 700 attendees, almost 175 people were involved in the presentation of the program. The aim of the annual event is to salute those who have sacrificed so that all Americans can all live in freedom. It also provides an opportunity to present attendees with God’s Word and establish friendships that may bring them back to Grace Polaris Church in the future.
“In this year’s special highpoints we had ‘Charge to the Troops’ provided by motivational speaker U.S. Army Ranger Gary Horton via video from his home in Louisiana,” noted Turner. “He gave a strong spiritual message aimed at repairing fragile men who have experienced combat. Our featured veteran this year was Bob Walz, decorated WWII soldier who was at Normandy, Battle of the Bulge, and served with General George Patton. He was honored as part of the Red White and Boom Independence Day Celebration in Columbus this year.”
The original mission ten years ago was two-fold: provide a proper welcome home for the guys from Vietnam whom were never quite received back into society the way other veterans have been and introduce the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ those who had never heard or had strayed from it. Dr. Mike Anthony, a local dentist, Vietnam veteran, and church member, initiated the event with the help of other veterans in the congregation.
“About 30 veterans from Grace Polaris were here to help facilitate the parking, set up and tear down, and meet and greet at the door,” said Turner, who served in the U.S Army from 1966 to 1969 and now works in the church’s copy center. “I was involved in entertainment for almost 30 years, performing, writing, producing, promoting, etc. Once I started attending the monthly Grace Vets meetings as a Vietnam-era veteran, it was a natural progression to move into the producer/MC role,” said Turner.
Two other features of Legacy of Honor are the before and after event activities. This year, prior to the program, folks were welcome to browse the biggest personal military memorabilia collection in Ohio, provided by Bob Croce, a member of the Ohio National Guard. As they left the event, every person in attendance was provided a complimentary piece of apple pie – a tradition that has become a staple of the event. Congregation members provided 150 pies to be distributed.
From the Columbus Composite Civil Air Patrol Squadron who provided the flag ceremony, as well as music from the Worthington High School choir, Grace Polaris Men’s chorus, Heidi Turner (Wes’s wife and part of the worship team at Grace Polaris) and the Grace Jazz Combo presenting a min-USO show, and Todd Hughes (with a rendition of God Bless America for a finale), there was never a shortage of flag-waving patriotic enthusiasm. Through music, media, and drama each year’s program is laid out for people who love their country and their freedom. – By Julia Marsh