Decade milestone reached

Published 11:36 am Monday, November 13, 2017

By Betty F. Jones
News Correspondent

AHOSKIE – The 10th annual Military Ball (dinner and dance) was held on Saturday, Nov. 12 at the Roanoke – Chowan Shrine Club.

The event was sponsored by the Dedicated Warrior Foundation and the dress was formal, military dress uniform or informal.

SGM Mike Eason, founder of the Dedicated Warriors Foundation, stands with his sidekick – Saber 7 – at the 10th annual Military Ball held Nov. 12 at the Roanoke-Chowan Shrine Club. | Photos by Betty F. Jones and Danny Bowman, Jr

The special tribute to fallen comrades was followed by awards and recognition ceremony.

SGM Mike Eason introduced special guests, to include US Air Force TS Master SGT Dwane Everett, Army LT General Charles Baxter and wife Teresa, Army Eagle Eye, TSGT Phyllis Eason (US Air Force – R and Mike Eason’s wife) and keynote speaker US Air Force MSGT Ronald Vaughan and guest.

The Fallen Comrade Ceremony was conducted, one full of symbolism to honor soldiers who did not make it home. In summary, we are present tonight and would be remiss not to remember ones who can’t be with us. This ceremony begins with an empty table, one symbolizing soldiers missing from our midst. Added are a white tablecloth, symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call of duty; a rifle, symbolizing the first to die in the war of independence fought against England; a chair representing parents and grandparents who waited for over 292,000 Americans who would not return from World Wars I and II; a rose representing the hopes and dreams of peace for each soldier who died for the people of South Korea; a lemon slice on a bread plate reminds us of the bitter fate of captured and missing comrades in the Vietnam War; an inverted wineglass represents ones lost, absent and unable to share in this evening’s toast; a yellow ribbon represents the hopes and prayers of thousands of families and friends who waited for their loved ones safe return. Over 500,000 served in Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm. The hopes and prayers for 246

US Air Force MSGT Ronald Vaughan served as the keynote speaker at the Military Ball.

went unanswered. The lighting of the candle serves to remind us of the ultimate sacrifice our fallen comrades and their families made to preserve our freedom. A bugler then plays taps.

Eason recited a poem The Silent Ranks – Tribute to the Military Spouse … Unknown Author. Written from the perspective of a military spouse, this poem recognizes the important role of the spouses and children left behind.

Eason was presented a lovely crystal and gold clock by members of the Dedicated Warrior Foundation he affectionately calls his crew for his unrelenting dedication, leadership and hard work.

As originator of the foundation he stated in September 2006 at his going away party, SSG Albert Ridley asked Eason if he could do something to recognize the soldiers from the area who had served.

“I told him if I made it back from the war, that I would do something,” Eason recalled. “Eighteen months later after I returned from Iraq, SSG Ridley approached me again and asked me if I was going to do it. After undergoing enemy fire for 18 months, being shot and blown up, I had totally forgotten the conversation we had before I left. He asked me again and I said I would.

SSG (US Army, R) Maylon Day, a member of the Color Guard, places the final item, a yellow ribbon, on the table during the Fallen Comrade Ceremony.

“After fundraising and raising funds to put on an affair, we had our first Military Ball December 2008,” Eason continued. “While serving in Iraq, a family member sent me a musical bear, which I named Saber 7. Saber 7 was my battle buddy who had my back. He was present on each of the numerous combat missions we had to conduct. He went through the same hell as I did, while suffering from the same PTSD and emotional trauma that I did.”

Saber 7, the musical bear, burst into song with “Proud to Be an American” by Lee Greenwood, stirring the crowd to patriotic pride.

The deceased soldier’s names were called and a bell was rung honoring their memory.

Eason shortened the recognition ceremony by having people interested in a certificate made they could receive one made on site.

Gloria Colye, a faithful attendee of all 10 events and mother of MSGT Vaughan, asked Eason if he would like to contact her son to be the guest speaker. Vaughan accepted and arrived at the event after driving from Florida.

Leon Murphy plays Taps as part of the Fallen Comrade Ceremony.

His speech went from talking about Buffalo Soldiers to Tuskegee Airmen of WW II. His favorite quote was Martin Luther King’s, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

He concluded by saying that the battles fought and the lives lost enable us to have and cherish the many aspects of our freedom.

A praise dancer gave a graceful performance to an enthralled audience. A local Gospel group, Covenant, made a repeat appearance. DJ Colrain of Ahoskie has been the DJ for the ball for all 10 years.

Eason closed the appreciation event by thanking everyone in attendance and urging everyone to enjoy the after dinner dancing.