Saturday, June 13, 2009

Celebrate America - June 27 at the Rock Ranch

This event features family fun attractions, amazing live shows, a rubber duck derby to benefit charity, a live musical concert, great food and a fireworks extravaganza. Admission is only $20 per vehicle (regardless of the number of occupants), or $30 per bus. Admission includes unlimited use of attractions.

Family fun attractions include: locomotive train rides, hay rides, the cow train, a rock climbing wall, inflatables, the giant jumping pillow, family bicycles, pony rides, family dodge ball, the watermelon cannon, the petting zoo, paddle boats, cane pole fishing, and much more.

There will be activities provided by the Atlanta Braves, Hawks and Thrashers, a reptile show by Jason Clark of Animal Planet, master puppeteer Peter Hart, story teller Harvey Wilson, a paintball shooting range presented by, a cow milking exhibition, an antique tractor display and the America I Am - African American Imprint (traveling American history museum).

The presentation prior to the fireworks will include a live concert by national Christian recording artist Andrew Carlton who will sing some patriotic tunes in addition to his own hit songs (

Gates will open at 2pm and the fireworks extravaganza will begin at dark. No pets and no outside food or drinks are permitted. However, a variety of great food options will be available to purchase. Food choices include Chick-fil-A sandwiches, Chick-fil-A Ice Dream, funnel cakes, hamburgers and hot dogs, Bar-B-Q Pork, ribs, pizza, cotton candy, sno cones, popcorn, ice cold lemonade, boiled peanuts and more.

Another exciting addition to the 10th annual presentation of Celebrate America is The Great American Duck Derby presented by Stepping Stones Educational Therapy Center. Thousands of rubber ducks will race down Hopeful Beaver Creek at The Rock Ranch and the owner of the winning duck will be awarded $5,000.00 (with a chance to win a million). Ducks may be adopted for $5 each on site or they may be pre-purchased on-line. (Click here to adopt a duck) Contestants in the duck derby do not have to be present to win and all proceeds from the duck derby benefit Stepping Stones (an educational therapy center that serves special needs children).

We invite your family to be a part of this event. Join us as we assemble to celebrate this land, our freedoms as Americans and those who fought and are fighting to preserve those freedoms; to 'Celebrate America'.

For more information click this link to visit here for a printable flyer about Celebrate America at The Rock Ranch that you can share with friends and family - and click here for a complete 2009 schedule of events.
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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Obama Remarks at D Day 65th Anniversary Ceremony

HE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Thank you, President Sarkozy, Prime Minister Brown, Prime Minister Harper, and Prince Charles for being here today. Thank you to our Secretary of Veterans Affairs, General Eric Shinseki, for making the trip out here to join us. Thanks also to Susan Eisenhower, whose grandfather began this mission 65 years ago with a simple charge: "Ok, let's go." And to a World War II veteran who returned home from this war to serve a proud and distinguished career as a United States Senator and a national leader: Bob Dole. (Applause.)

I'm not the first American President to come and mark this anniversary, and I likely will not be the last. This is an event that has long brought to this coast both heads of state and grateful citizens; veterans and their loved ones; the liberated and their liberators. It's been written about and spoken of and depicted in countless books and films and speeches. And long after our time on this Earth has passed, one word will still bring forth the pride and awe of men and women who will never meet the heroes who sit before us: D-Day.

Why is this? Of all the battles in all the wars across the span of human history, why does this day hold such a revered place in our memory? What is it about the struggle that took place on the sands a few short steps from here that brings us back to remember year after year after year?

Part of it, I think, is the size of the odds that weighed against success. For three centuries, no invader had ever been able to cross the English Channel into Normandy. And it had never been more difficult than in 1944.

That was the year that Hitler ordered his top field marshal to fortify the Atlantic Wall against a seaborne invasion. From the tip of Norway to southern France, the Nazis lined steep cliffs with machine guns and artillery. Low-lying areas were flooded to block passage. Sharpened poles awaited paratroopers. Mines were laid on the beaches and beneath the water. And by the time of the invasion, half a million Germans waited for the Allies along the coast between Holland and northern France.

At dawn on June 6th, the Allies came. The best chance for victory had been for the British Royal Air Corps to take out the guns on the cliffs while airborne divisions parachuted behind enemy lines. But all did not go according to plan. Paratroopers landed miles from their mark, while the fog and clouds prevented Allied planes from destroying the guns on the cliffs. So when the ships landed here at Omaha, an unimaginable hell rained down on the men inside. Many never made it out of the boats.

And yet, despite all of this, one by one, the Allied forces made their way to shore -- here, and at Utah and Juno; Gold and Sword. They were American, British, and Canadian. Soon, the paratroopers found each other and fought their way back. The Rangers scaled the cliffs. And by the end of the day, against all odds, the ground on which we stand was free once more.

The sheer improbability of this victory is part of what makes D-Day so memorable. It also arises from the clarity of purpose with which this war was waged.

We live in a world of competing beliefs and claims about what is true. It's a world of varied religions and cultures and forms of government. In such a world, it's all too rare for a struggle to emerge that speaks to something universal about humanity.

The Second World War did that. No man who shed blood or lost a brother would say that war is good. But all know that this war was essential. For what we faced in Nazi totalitarianism was not just a battle of competing interests. It was a competing vision of humanity. Nazi ideology sought to subjugate and humiliate and exterminate. It perpetrated murder on a massive scale, fueled by a hatred of those who were deemed different and therefore inferior. It was evil.

The nations that joined together to defeat Hitler's Reich were not perfect. They had made their share of mistakes, had not always agreed with one another on every issue. But whatever God we prayed to, whatever our differences, we knew that the evil we faced had to be stopped. Citizens of all faiths and of no faith came to believe that we could not remain as bystanders to the savage perpetration of death and destruction. And so we joined and sent our sons to fight and often die so that men and women they never met might know what it is to be free.

In America, it was an endeavor that inspired a nation to action. A President who asked his country to pray on D-Day also asked its citizens to serve and sacrifice to make the invasion possible. On farms and in factories, millions of men and women worked three shifts a day, month after month, year after year. Trucks and tanks came from plants in Michigan and Indiana, New York and Illinois. Bombers and fighter planes rolled off assembly lines in Ohio and Kansas, where my grandmother did her part as an inspector. Shipyards on both coasts produced the largest fleet in history, including the landing craft from New Orleans that eventually made it here to Omaha.

But despite all the years of planning and preparation, despite the inspiration of our leaders, the skill of our generals, the strength of our firepower and the unyielding support from our home front, the outcome of the entire struggle would ultimately rest on the success of one day in June.

Lyndon Johnson once said that there are certain moments when "¼history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom."

D-Day was such a moment. One newspaper noted that "we have come to the hour for which we were born." Had the Allies failed here, Hitler's occupation of this continent might have continued indefinitely. Instead, victory here secured a foothold in France. It opened a path to Berlin. It made possible the achievements that followed the liberation of Europe: the Marshall Plan, the NATO alliance, the shared prosperity and security that flowed from each.

It was unknowable then, but so much of the progress that would define the 20th century, on both sides of the Atlantic, came down to the battle for a slice of beach only six miles long and two miles wide.

More particularly, it came down to the men who landed here -- those who now rest in this place for eternity, and those who are with us here today. Perhaps more than any other reason, you, the veterans of that landing, are why we still remember what happened on D-Day. You're why we keep coming back.

For you remind us that in the end, human destiny is not determined by forces beyond our control. You remind us that our future is not shaped by mere chance or circumstance. Our history has always been the sum total of the choices made and the actions taken by each individual man and woman. It has always been up to us.

You could have done what Hitler believed you would do when you arrived here. In the face of a merciless assault from these cliffs, you could have idled the boats offshore. Amid a barrage of tracer bullets that lit the night sky, you could have stayed in those planes. You could have hid in the hedgerows or waited behind the seawall. You could have done only what was necessary to ensure your own survival.

But that's not what you did. That's not the story you told on D-Day. Your story was written by men like Zane Schlemmer of the 82nd Airborne, who parachuted into a dark marsh, far from his objective and his men. Lost and alone, he still managed to fight his way through the gunfire and help liberate the town in which he landed -- a town where a street now bears his name.

It's a story written by men like Anthony Ruggiero, an Army Ranger who saw half the men on his landing craft drown when it was hit by shellfire just a thousand yards off this beach. He spent three hours in freezing water, and was one of only 90 Rangers to survive out of the 225 who were sent to scale the cliffs.

And it's a story written by so many who are no longer with us, like Carlton Barrett. Private Barrett was only supposed to serve as a guide for the 1st Infantry Division, but he instead became one of its heroes. After wading ashore in neck-deep water, he returned to the water again and again and again to save his wounded and drowning comrades. And under the heaviest possible enemy fire, he carried them to safety. He carried them in his own arms.

This is the story of the Allied victory. It's the legend of units like Easy Company and the All-American 82nd. It's the tale of the British people, whose courage during the Blitz forced Hitler to call off the invasion of England; the Canadians, who came even though they were never attacked; the Russians, who sustained some of the war's heaviest casualties on the Eastern front; and all those French men and women who would rather have died resisting tyranny than lived within its grasp.

It is the memories that have been passed on to so many of us about the service or sacrifice of a friend or relative. For me, it is my grandfather, Stanley Dunham, who arrived on this beach six weeks after D-Day and marched across Europe in Patton's Army. And it is my great uncle who was part of the first American division to reach and liberate a Nazi concentration camp. His name is Charles Payne, and I'm so proud that he's with us here today.

I know this trip doesn't get any easier as the years pass, but for those of you who make it, there's nothing that could keep you away. One such veteran, a man named Jim Norene, was a member of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Division of the 101st Airborne. Last night, after visiting this cemetery for one last time, he passed away in his sleep. Jim was gravely ill when he left his home, and he knew that he might not return. But just as he did 65 years ago, he came anyway. May he now rest in peace with the boys he once bled with, and may his family always find solace in the heroism he showed here.

In the end, Jim Norene came back to Normandy for the same reason we all come back. He came for the reason articulated by Howard Huebner, another former paratrooper who is here with us today. When asked why he made the trip, Howard said, "It's important that we tell our stories. It doesn't have to be something big¼just a little story about what happened -- so people don't forget."

So people don't forget.

Friends and veterans, we cannot forget. What we must not forget is that D-Day was a time and a place where the bravery and the selflessness of a few was able to change the course of an entire century. At an hour of maximum danger, amid the bleakest of circumstances, men who thought themselves ordinary found within themselves the ability to do something extraordinary. They fought for their moms and sweethearts back home, for the fellow warriors they came to know as brothers. And they fought out of a simple sense of duty -- a duty sustained by the same ideals for which their countrymen had once fought and bled for over two centuries.

That is the story of Normandy -- but also the story of America; of the Minutemen who gathered on a green in Lexington; of the Union boys from Maine who repelled a charge at Gettysburg; of the men who gave their last full measure of devotion at Inchon and Khe San; of all the young men and women whose valor and goodness still carry forward this legacy of service and sacrifice. It's a story that has never come easy, but one that always gives us hope. For as we face down the hardships and struggles of our time, and arrive at that hour for which we were born, we cannot help but draw strength from those moments in history when the best among us were somehow able to swallow their fears and secure a beachhead on an unforgiving shore.

To those men who achieved that victory 65 years ago, we thank you for your service. May God bless you, and may God bless the memory of all those who rest here. (Applause.)

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Senator Bob Dole Travels to Normandy as Guest of President Obama

/PRNewswire / -- Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, special counsel in the Washington office of the law firm Alston + Bird, has been invited by President Obama to travel with him to France this week for the 65th anniversary of D-Day, the allied invasion of the Normandy coast on June 6, 1944.

President Obama invited Senator Dole to represent the World War II generation in recognition of his wartime service, his long and distinguished career in public service, and his continued commitment to veterans.

Senator Dole was chairman of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., helping raise nearly $175 million for its construction, almost all through private contributions.

He continues to be active as a volunteer for the "Honor Flight" program, which flies World War II veterans from across the U.S. without charge to view the memorial on the national mall. He personally greets almost all of the flights.

"It is an immense honor to take part in saluting and remembering all those who gave their lives at Normandy," Senator Dole said. "D-Day was the beginning of the end of World War II, and the sacrifices of so many brave soldiers that day will forever be burned in my memory and, I believe, of all Americans and all peace-loving and freedom-loving peoples throughout the world."

Senator Dole was seriously injured in World War II in the Italian campaign. He had enlisted in the U.S. Army from his native Kansas in 1942 and rose to the rank of second lieutenant, serving in the Tenth Mountain Division and fighting in Italy's Po Valley.

In 1945, he was leading his platoon through heavy enemy shelling when his radioman was struck. He crawled from his foxhole to help rescue the injured man, only to be hit himself by Nazi machine-gun fire. His lifelong injuries were so severe he was evacuated to the U.S. for three years of recovery in hospitals.

Senator Dole was decorated three times for heroism, receiving two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star with Combat V for Valor.

Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and then to the U.S. Senate, Senator Dole served as Senate leader longer than any other Republican in history. He was instrumental in passage of numerous veterans bills and successfully sponsored the Americans with Disabilities Act, along with other legislation assisting veterans and others with injuries. President George W. Bush appointed Senator Dole as co-chair of the Commission on Care for America's Returning Veterans.

Speaking at the dedication of the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at Kansas State University, Senator Dole said: "No honor that has come my way has surpassed the pride I felt in wearing my country's uniform."

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West Georgia Honor Flight honors America’s Veterans

Reprinted from

West Georgia Honor Flight exists to help honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. Our goal is to fly veteran heroes from Columbus, GA, and surrounding counties to Washington, D.C., to reflect at their national memorials for a one-day free visit.

On May 29, 2004, the World War II Memorial was dedicated to honor “The Greatest Generation.” Regrettably today, very few of these elderly veterans have the funds, knowledge or strength to complete a conventional trip to Washington, D.C., via commercial airline, car or bus.

It is our mission to honor as many of these selfless “ordinary people who saved the world” as we can by providing them an all expenses paid trip to visit their memorial in Washington, D.C.

Our program operates only on donations from corporate donors, local civic organizations and individuals from Columbus and the West Georgia area.

Our volunteer guardians pay their own way for the honor of personally accompanying the veterans throughout the day, including escorting them on and off the aircraft and buses as well as to the WWII Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, and any other stops along the trip.

The flights, deluxe tour bus service, t-shirts, wheel chairs, oxygen and meals are FREE to our Veterans. We pledge to continue to do this as long as funds and volunteers are available.

To apply to be a part of one of our flights, please click on the appropriate link for application information and downloadable applications.

For more information about how you or your group can be a part of our effort, please contact the West Georgia Honor Flight, (706) 507-WWII (9944) or .

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

WWII Veterans Compete in National Veterans Golden Age Games

/PRNewswire / -- Forty World War II Veterans are reuniting at the world's largest sports and recreational competition for senior Veterans June 1-5 in Birmingham, Alabama, at the 23rd National Veterans Golden Age Games. The Games are open to all U.S. military Veterans age 55 or older who receive care at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility. More that 700 Veterans have registered to compete.

"The Golden Age Games continue to grow every year, and the athletes who participate are testimony that the spirit of competition, camaraderie and commitment to an actively invigorating lifestyle," Marilyn Iverson, director of the Veterans Canteen Service, said. "This spirit not only helps to prevent illness, it strengthens the hearts and rejuvenates the soul."

The Games give participants the opportunity to compete in ambulatory, visually-impaired and wheelchair divisions, according to their ages. Events include swimming, bicycling, bowling, croquet, air rifle, golf, shuffleboard, horseshoes, discus and shot-put.

The Golden Age Games are co-sponsored by VA, Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV) and Veterans Canteen Service (VCS). This year's event is hosted by the VA medical center in Birmingham.

The Games are designed to improve the quality of life for all older Veterans, including those with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. Through a partnership with the National Senior Games Association, a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, the Games serve as a qualifier for the National Senior Games, held every other year.

"HHV is extremely pleased to continue its support of this wonderful therapeutic program," Mike Lynch, executive director of HHV, said. "The Games continue to demonstrate VA's commitment to offer programs that help Veteran patients in their health recovery and to send the message that Americans support their service to our country."

The majority of the competitive events for the Golden Age Games, including opening and closing ceremonies, will be held at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center. The opening ceremony took place at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 1. The competition began with golf on Tuesday, June 2, at 8 a.m., at Highland Golf Course. Closing ceremonies will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 5, at the convention center.

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