CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice and First Lady Cathy Justice joined several veterans, their family members, school children, and others on Friday to celebrate the “Once and Future Patriots” youth salute at the West Virginia Culture Center.
“I am beyond humbled to be here with these veterans, the Gold Star Mothers, and everyone in this room – because I’ve said it over and over that we owe everything we have in this world to our veterans and their families,” Gov. Justice said. “Too often we don’t take the time to tell them how much they are appreciated and loved. Anything I can do to help our veterans I will do because they have given us their all.”
“Veterans have a very special place in our hearts,” said First Lady Justice. “Jim’s dad was in the Army, my dad was in the Navy, but they never really said a whole lot about their service. Our veterans just went and did what they had to do to protect our freedom. Their sacrifices for all of us are immeasurable.”
During Friday’s ceremony, Nitro High School student Emily Rinick and Nitro teacher Kizmet Chandler were recognized as the first West Virginians to earn entry into the prestigious Albert H. Small Normandy Institute, a national educational program focusing on the Normandy Invasion during World War II. Across the country, 15 teams are selected annually to help preserve the memory of a service member who fell during the 1944 campaign.
Rinick and Chandler focused on Staff Sgt. Mitchell Woods Bacon, a West Virginian and U.S. Army Corps radio operator who died when his plane was shot down on June 7, 1944.
The event also brought a commemorative art piece by master gilder and frame historian William Adair to West Virginia for the first time. The Gold Beach Door was created in honor of one of the D-Day landing sites. It was displayed for the 70th anniversary of the invasion at Normandy, where veterans inscribed it. The door was displayed during Friday’s ceremony at the Culture Center.
Also during Friday’s event, 20 hand-drawn thank-you cards – submitted by West Virginia school children – were selected as winners of First Lady Justice’s Thank-A-Veteran Contest. Third, fourth and fifth graders from 54 schools in 24 counties created 2,785 cards and each card will be given to a veteran.
The 249th Military Band and Nitro High School Show Choir also performed during the ceremony.