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Bourbon event honors veterans, supports programs

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By Kacie Goode

As guests of Tuesday’s Bourbon, Patriots and Veterans event reflected on the 17-year anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the lives lost and the heroes who arose from that day, they also looked to the future.

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“Seventeen years ago seems like a lifetime, and, quite frankly, it is,” said state Rep. Tim Moore as he addressed the crowd. Moore referenced two teenagers standing in the back of the room — Ryan Getler and Carl Olde Loohuis — who had greeted guests as they came in. The young men had recently taken part in Kentucky Boys State, an American Legion program. Both were about a year old when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred.

“The young men and women who are stepping forward today literally were born in the timeframe of 9/11,” Moore said, and as he spoke about recognizing veterans, he added, “America produces great patriots in every generation, including the one that is rising up right now.”

Tuesday’s event, held at My Old Kentucky Home Great Hall and organized by American Legion Post 42, again saw a full house of veterans, families and esteemed guests who enjoyed bourbon tastings, dinner, live music, a silent auction and more. The event, in its second year, was entertaining, but also served to recognize several of the guests for varied accomplishments and contributions.

Receiving the Distinguished Veteran Coin award was Randall Fisher, who Moore described as “one of the most beloved legionnaires in the area.”

Fisher is a service officer for the American Legion Department of Kentucky and is campaigning to be the national legion commander.

Pat Paskins received an American Legion barrelhead for his service and fundraising efforts for veterans, and Marty Goley, received an award for his support and establishment of Post 42 as well as his work with veterans.

This year’s Presidential Lifetime Achievement/Volunteer Award was presented to Vivian Fleenor for her ongoing volunteer efforts for the legion, as well as a number of other community organizations.

“Through at least 4,000 hours of service, you have ensured the continuation of America’s unparalleled commitment to improving the lives of others. You have served as a model of the American spirit,” Moore said while presenting the award. “Your many hours of service have strengthened the bond, cooperation and trust that bring people together while helping to address some of the greatest challenges of our time.”

Among her work, Fleenor has served as director of the Bardstown At Home program for seniors and as administrative director for Kentucky Boys State, which earned her KBS Staffer of Year in 2016.

Fleenor humbly accepted the award with a short address to the audience.

“It’s so important to give back to our veterans and to our community,” she said. “I do a lot of things because I see a need out there in the community to help. I love my legion family, I love my auxiliary family, and I appreciate this so much. Thank you.”  

In addition to honoring several, Tuesday’s event also welcomed special guest speakers.

Speaker of Honor Skipper David Culpepper touched on the history of Guantanamo Bay, of which he has served as commanding officer of the Naval Station.

“Of course, 17 years ago today you could argue that the world changed, life changed for everybody around the world in some way probably. Certainly dramatically for Americans, but it changed in Guantanamo as well,” Culpepper said, referencing a U.S. Military detention camp opened there following the events of 9/11.

“One thing that hasn’t changed there over the years is the inherent isolation,” he said, and he later spoke about how local legion members have made an impact, including a visit to Cuba to care for veterans and families and to sign up high school students from the base for the Girls and Boys State leadership programs.

“It has a been a game changer for the school and especially for the young men and women who have participated,” Culpepper said.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes spoke briefly about some of the work she has been doing, including a recent announcement that the state’s four veterans centers will now serve as polling places for future elections, an endeavor  Grimes said has taken several years to come to fruition.

“That means that our veterans no longer have to participate in the absentee system,” she said.  

Army veteran Jim Lish spoke about finding a purpose after serving his country, and connecting with the “great people of the American Legion.”

“I really want to express what the American Legion does and what we stand for: God and Country, together,” he said. “If you’re not a member of the American Legion, I encourage you” to become part of our family.

In addition to patriotic messages and recognizing those who serve the community and the country, Tuesday’s event will continue to offer support with proceeds going to veteran-related programs, services and activities.