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Picnic shows appreciation for veterans

POSTED: September 17, 2008 5:01 a.m.
MEGAN GILL/The Times

Staff Sgt. Jacob Long

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Saturday’s picnic honoring veterans and active military not only featured the traditional picnic trappings of food, sodas and live music, but also a fundraiser and information about benefits.

The second annual Veteran’s Appreciation Picnic held Saturday in Longwood Park in Gainesville was sponsored by Disabled American Veterans Chapter 17 of Gainesville.

Ron Reed of Cumming said that the picnic was "focused on disabled American veterans and veterans seeking benefits for health." But all were welcome to attend.

"Any disabled American veterans, family and friends. We’re open to anybody coming," said Reed.

A raffle that included prizes such as a two bicycles and a digital camera aimed to raise money for vans to take disabled veterans get medical treatment in Decatur.

The Disabled American Veterans Chapter 17 also is raising money to have their own building in which to meet. They are currently meeting in the Army Reserve Center on Shallowford Road in Gainesville.

The picnic was started last year by the chapter’s past commander, Robert Freytag, a Navy veteran. He died last May of a stroke, but the chapter took over and continued the picnic. His son, Bobby Freytag, also a retired Navy veteran, is among those who helped plan the picnic this year.

Several veterans and those who are currently serving in the military attended Saturday’s event.

Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry had a display that included some of the weapons the unit uses. The unit is part of the Georgia National Guard’s 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and will be deployed to Afghanistan early next year.

"We like to set up displays to show to the community what we do and what we use," said Staff Sgt. Jacob Long.

Long has served for nine years and has though he has deployed to Bosnia and Iraq, this will be his first time serving in Afghanistan.

Long said his favorite part of the picnic was "talking with veterans from past wars and sharing stories."

Sgt. Steve Bechtel, also in the infantry unit, has served 16 years active duty in the Marine Corps. He has served three tours in Iraq, and one tour each in Afghanistan, Panama, Grenada, Somalia and Desert Storm.

"It’s great to see the veterans, families and kids come out," Bechtel said of the picnic. He said he enjoyed explaining each kind of weapon and its uses to the kids who visited the picnic.

Spc. Tom Crocker will be serving for the first time with the unit when it deploys to Afghanistan.

"It’s a good community awareness," Crocker said of his unit’s display.

The veterans who came said they enjoyed spending some with other veterans, swapping war stories.

Reed said his father, Paul F. Reed, was a retired sergeant who served in World War II, and in the Korean and Vietnam wars. "I would call myself a grateful son," said Reed. His father died last week.

"What I like best about the picnic would be talking with the men and women who served our country," said Reed.

Bechtel’s father also is a veteran who served in Korea and both World Wars.

"I believe in supporting veterans," said Bechtel.

Crocker agreed: "It’s just a good event to support our veterans," he said of the picnic.



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