By Jessica Wettig
In light of Veterans’ Day, Goreville C.U.S.D. #1 hosted its annual Veterans’ Day Luncheon Thursday morning, Nov. 8. The Goreville FFA organized the event, served the veterans, and held a presentation.
Verna and Bill Patterson, Goreville, and their son, Mark, attended the event. Bill served in the Air Force from 1952-1956 and in the Korean War. He was stationed in Pearl Harbor and the Marshall Islands.
Bill is originally from Tennessee. He discharged in Chicago in 1956. He met Verna, who is a Goreville graduate. Verna said she was friends with Bill’s mother, and she introduced them.
The two were married in 1957. The couple moved to Goreville in 1958, and have lived there ever since.
They had three children: Mark, Goreville; Scott, Goreville; and Monica, Jerseyville.
Another family who attended the event was Roy and Alice Sims, Buncombe. Roy served in the Army from 1964-1986. He graduated from West Frankfort High School, and Alice graduated from Vienna High School.
Roy served two tours in Vietnam, in the invasion of Grenada, and served in other activities in Taiwan, Germany and Korea.
He married Alice in 1969, and the two had two daughters: Christie Francis, who was born in Germany, has dual citizenship and works there now; and Junita Davis, Makanda.
“I felt I was serving a purpose more when I worked overseas, than when I served in the states,” said Roy.
While in Taiwan, Roy recalled being a Chinese dragon dancer, where he danced for 5 miles at full speed. He said he trained for six months prior.
“This is the greatest country there ever was,” said Roy.
Afghanistan War Veteran Heath Clark, Goreville, attended the event with his son, Cillian, 5.
Clark said he is originally from Marion and graduated Marion High School in 1994. He served in the Army from 1993-2009, and completed three tours in Iraq. He served in Germany, Thailand, Poland and England, as well as Afghanistan.
He said he recalled living with Afghans from 2008-2009, and always being on the move.
“That was the bloodiest year the Brits had,” he said.
He said the Afghan soldiers were among the highest casualties. They were not used to doing things for themselves, and were not very good at fending for themselves.
After years of combat, Clark and his wife, Keri, bought 15 acres in the Goreville area, and have lived there ever since. They also have a daughter, Taylor, 23.
Heath said he now enjoys the quiet of where he lives.
After resigning, he attended Ashford University and received a Bachelor’s in Communications. He now works at the United States Penitentiary in Marion.
“We were so proud of our veterans and FFA.” Superintendent Steve Webb said.
Webb said he saw many familiar faces at the event, and complimented the school for taking the time out to host the event.
GHS Junior and FFA Member Andrew Manier said it is his first year in the FFA, and he didn’t fully know what the FFA did.
“It’s much more than Ag, “ he said. “We do a lot of things for the community.”
He said the luncheon was a unique opportunity, and it helped him get some perspective.
GHS Senior and FFA Member Hallie Grenfell said she has been helping with this event for many years, and she is always seeing more veterans coming in.
She said one veteran in attendance hadn’t been there before. He doesn’t talk about his time serving. But, the fact that he attended this year said something.
“It helps give people closure,” Grenfell said.
“After all the things we’ve done, I hope we did a good job,” said FFA Director Jeff Robison.