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Wall of Courage opens at Willow Ridge

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Veteran Dayton Gunn poses with family members after the ceremony.

Willow Ridge Rehabilitation and Living Center now has a permanent way to honor those who have served in the Armed Forces at their Rutherfordton facility.

The "Wall of Courage" was unveiled during a ceremony held Jan. 31. The wall is located in a corridor of the facility, and includes the Pledge of Allegiance and photos of current residents who served in the military.

"We wanted to celebrate and show our appreciation for those who have served," explained Willow Ridge Administrator Adam Bealer during the unveiling ceremony. "None of us would be here without the sacrifices of you and your families."

The wall is just one part of a new program being offered at Willow Ridge, the Veterans Honor Program, Bealer continued. The program will offer an interdisciplinary team approach to veteran care, including group and individual counseling, combat-related injury care, enrichment programs and more.

"The program truly caters to veterans needs, and one important part of the program is learning about the veterans themselves," said Jacob Stern, CEO of CCH Healthcare, which owns Willow Ridge.

The ceremony included presentations by the RS Central Marine Corps JROTC rifle team, and an address by keynote speaker Doug Logan, who served in the Army in Vietnam.

Logan joined the military after reading a book by Eleanor Roosevelt, he said. The war in Vietnam was going on, and he told his mother he was going to join.

"I was an infantry soldier and served during the Tet Offensive," he explained. "I turned 21 in Vietnam, while those around me who died were 17, 18, 19, 20 .... and I turned 21. Those things attack me some times, but I did what I had to do to save a life."

Logan continued, saying that when he returned to the United States, he was given a blue suit to put on. He wasn't welcomed back, he said, and during that time the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder weren't known.

"I had to get past the war and how the American people felt about it," he said. "The first time I spoke about being in Vietnam was three years ago."

Logan added that he understood how the veterans in the room felt about their service to the country.

"I've been in seven different countries, and we have got it made," he said. "I'm proud of this country."

Following Logan's speech, veterans were recognized by the National Guard for their service. Each received a wreath for their door and certificate honoring their service.

Veterans who were honored were Thomas Hardin, CJ Holland, Harold Alexander, Thomas Hudson, John Newton, Dayton Gunn, Joe Street, William Dysart, Bill Roberts, Wallace Ruppe and Robert Smart. Willow Ridge staff who are veterans, Amber Stephens and Dennis Michaels, were also honored.

Rutherfordton Town Manager Doug Barrick presented a proclamation signed by Rutherfordton Mayor Jimmy Dancy proclaiming Jan. 31 as "Courage Day" in the town.

For more information on the program, contact Willow Ridge at 828-286-7200.

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