Branson, a Veteran’s Homecoming by Lynn Ryan

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Branson rolls out the red carpet for veterans in November for the annual Veterans’ Homecoming, the largest Veterans’ Day event in the nation sponsored by Branson, Missouri’s Veterans Task Force. My husband, Mike, and I attended this impressive event last year.

An opening ceremony at the Talk of the Town Theater included speeches from military guests, introduction of Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients and a spectacular landing of sky divers in the parking lot. A short reception followed Branson entertainment.

We attended the Tony Orlando “Santa and Me” show that evening. During the show, Orlando welcomed veterans and thanked them for all they had done during the wars.

At the Welk Resort Center the next morning, we attended the Lennon Brothers Show of swing and Christmas Music. The three surviving flight crew members of the B-29 Enola Gay that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, were introduced and received a moving standing ovation.

After the show, at the opening ceremony at the miniature traveling version of The Vietnam War Memorial (“The Wall”), the Enola Gay crew, who seemed overwhelmed by the attention they received, placed wreaths to honor dead servicemen. (Photo: B-29 Enola Gay pilot, General Paul Tibbets is flanked by Bombadier Colonel Thomas Ferebee and Navigator Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk.)

We lunched with Debbie Britt, Group Sales Manager, at the Jim Stafford Theater which was all decked out for Christmas. Debbie happily told us about Branson, how the whole town welcomes veterans and how it is a great place to live or visit. Many entertainers such as Jim Stafford, Tony Orlando and the Lennon family live as well as perform in Branson.

Later that afternoon we attended a spectacular lazer light show at The Palace Theater. It was the Dino Christmas Show. Dino plays grand piano and his wife, Cheryl, is the featured singer in the show which also features dancers and ice skating. Again veterans were acknowledged during the show.

At a VIP reception that evening at Mesquite Charlies, decorated in red, white and blue, some of the veterans dressed in their uniforms. They were honored and Medal of Honor recipients were introduced. It was moving how veterans’ wives admired their husbands with such pride.

On our last day, there was a Paralyzed Veterans of America Race in rainy and cold weather. Our next stop was the beautiful showboat Branson Belle. We had a great lunch and time to go on deck to enjoy the scenery. The gray overcast day didn’t really effect the cruise; everyone enjoyed themselves.

Medal of Honor recipients were honored with medallions of the Showboat Branson Belle as a thank you from the Veterans Task Force. After the ceremony we were treated to more great acts.

We visited to Silver Dollar City and saw the lighting of the Christmas Tree, an annual event. Silver Dollar City is amazing; old fashioned shops, workers dressed in old-fashioned costumes, restaurants, music, and Christmas lights everywhere. The Medal of Honor recipients were again praised in a ceremony in which all veterans were welcomed and thanked for their service.

The last show we saw was the Radio City Rockettes Christmas Show at The Grand Palace. From the Dance of the Wooden Soldiers to dancing rag dolls, their precision is amazing. And the nativity program was very moving.

All the shows we saw were spectacular. Veterans Task Force, Debbie Ikerd, made sure we saw as much of Branson as we could in the short time we were there. There is much we would like to see that we didn’t have time for this trip. We recommend Branson for anyone: groups or individuals looking for friendly people, beautiful scenery and great entertainment.

About the author
Lynn Ryan is a former sales person for Reunions magazine.

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