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A salute to veterans: Business celebrates 50 years with military appreciation event in North Carolina


By Hannah Mackenzie

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    SPRUCE PINE, North Carolina (WLOS) — A western North Carolina business spent its 50th anniversary honoring veterans and U.S. servicemembers.

Located in Spruce Pine, Buck Stove manufactures and sells stoves, fire place inserts, gas log sets and lanterns.

On Saturday, Oct. 9, their 50th anniversary, business owner Robert Bailey held a free concert saluting veterans.

“We just want to do something decent for the people,” Bailey said.

The event also featured a memorial for the 13 United States servicemembers killed in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan in August.

“These people were over there protecting the American way; they were protecting the Afghanistan people,” Bailey said. “We wanted to put a face instead of just a body or just a casualty – these are the people. When you see a real person, it’s different.”

Bailey said he is a veteran himself; he served as a medic in the Vietnam War. His father was also in the armed forces. His company, he said, has always been military-minded, so this year’s anniversary celebration theme was a given.

“It’s just fabulous,” said attendee Ric Hunter. “I love the big flag, I love the spirit, the music. Just a real treat!”

Hunter served in the U.S. Air Force as a fighter pilot for 27 years. The Vietnam War veteran saluted the 13 slain servicemen.

“Every time I see the loss like that, it just brings it home like a dagger in your heart. My heart goes out to all those families,” Hunter said. “Having been a combat fighter pilot and lost friends, I know how far that reaches. You think it’s just 13 but you can multiply that by 100s and it means a lot to have this kind of a display.” Thirteen freedom lanterns were nestled in the display. Buck Stove manufactures them. The lanterns have become a passion project of Bailey’s, said his daughter, Claudia Honeycutt.

“There’s a ‘Thank you’ note written by him and signed by him in every lantern that’s ever gone out,” Honeycutt said. “He wants to get a lantern in the hands of veterans all across the country.”

Over the last six or seven years, Honeycutt estimated her father has gifted several hundred freedom lanterns to veterans from all over.

Hunter was one of those recipients.

“He’s turned lives around by giving that lantern to veterans,” Hunter said. “The effect that this lantern has on veterans So many of us that came back from Vietnam never got a ‘Thank you,’ much less, endured a lot of other abuse. So, to have somebody offer a lantern like that as a ‘Thank you’ means the world.”

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