Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Miracles entertain Veterans at Welcome Home event
"If you feel like giving me a lifetime of devotion; I second that emotion," crooned the musical group, The Miracles, as they performed their opening number Saturday, May 7, at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center during the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center's Welcome Home Salute: A Night with the Miracles.
The group, dressed in matching gold-sequined jackets, danced their way on stage to entertain Veterans during a free concert held as the finale to a day-long homecoming event sponsored by Charleston VAMC.
"We are here today to pay tribute to all who served or are currently serving in the Armed Forces, and to the families who have made their service possible," said Charleston VAMC Voluntary Service Chief Fred Lesinski.
The day's festivities kicked off with a special 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemorative program hosted by the local Vietnam Veterans of American Chapter 780. Shortly after, a motorcycle ride-in by 43 bikes, carrying Veterans, their friends and family members, wowed the crowd before opening remarks were given by representatives of the event's key program sponsors: Pat Elkins of Charleston VAMC's Transition and Care Management Program; Jimmie Spencer, consultant with the Department of Defense Commemoration for the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commission; and Scott Isaacks, Charleston VA Medical Center director. Following the opening ceremony, event participants were invited to spend time prior to the concert visiting vendor booths at the health and resource fair to learn more about VA health care and services and other benefits available locally for Veterans.
Elkins extended a personal welcome to all attending Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to this official Welcome Home event and expressed gratitude for their service. Welcome Home events are held annually throughout the VA to help transitioning Servicemembers gain seamless access to the VA system.
Spencer welcomed Vietnam-era Veterans on behalf of the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration and presented special lapel pins to three military members who served during Vietnam: Pete Pendergrass, U.S. Army Veteran; Jackie Hall, U.S. Air Force Veteran; and Al Stiles, U.S. Navy Veteran. Additional pins were distributed to attending Vietnam Veterans with a personal 'thank you' and a handshake. Ralph H. Johnson VAMC is a Commemorative Partner organization of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration and has already held several events honoring Vietnam Veterans with more scheduled throughout 2016.
"It is an absolute honor to be here among so many Veterans who have sacrificed for America and for freedom," said Spencer. "To all the Vietnam-era Veterans here today, if you haven't heard it from someone already, 'Welcome Home.'"
"Throughout our nation's history, men and women from every walk of life have joined together in the sacred bond of service to country to protect the liberty and freedoms we hold dear," said Isaacks. "Along the way they have made tremendous sacrifices that deserve to be honored by us all. Today, we celebrate their victories and remember especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Their commitment to selfless service is truly heroic."
Veterans and their guests came dressed in their finest to enjoy the throwback entertainment provided by The Miracles and celebrate the military service of Veterans of all eras. Bill Walsh, Live 5 News chief meteorologist and Lt. Col. in the Air Force Reserve, served as the concert emcee.
"I know the Miracles are so proud to be a part of this nationwide 'Miracles for Heroes' concert series," said Jerald Heikens, stage manager for the group. "A few of the band members are Veterans themselves so these audiences hold a special place in their hearts. We all enjoy interacting directly with the Veterans, like we did yesterday when we came to the Charleston VA for a meet-and-greet. It's amazing because, after the shows, we've had Veterans tell us that this is the first concert they've ever been to. That's special and it makes all the hard work and travel worth it."