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Circle of Angels Initiative Salutes the USO and American Veterans

On Friday, Aug. 8 from 6 to 9 p.m. faith-based community initiative Circle of Angels is honoring American veterans with USO Night at the Solomons Boardwalk Pavilion. The event will include music in the time-honored USO tradition, have food, and history, foremost of which will be a stirring account by USAF Lt. Col. (Ret.) Vernon Garner.

During his speech, Garner will talk about his efforts while waiting to enter the service in World War II building the secret military base on Solomons, dubbed the “Cradle of The Invasion.” The base at one time supported over 60,000 Marines, Navy and Army amphibious military personnel who later were part of invasions of Normandy, Guadalcanal, Solomons Islands and other strategic areas of the Allied war effort from 1942 until the end of the war.

Garner had quite an illustrious career in the Air Force, flying B-29 bombing runs over Tokyo from his little known base on Tinian in the South Pacific – the same island from which Col. Paul Tibbits flew the Hiroshima bomb. “We were all sitting in our planes waiting to be told what to do the day the bomb was dropped,” said Garner. “They expected Japan to surrender right away. They didn’t, so we went on more bombing runs the next day,” said Garner.

Lt. Col. Garner received over 20 medals and campaign ribbons during his 30-year military career. He flew 50 missions in the Korean Conflict and over 20 in the Vietnam War, even though his primary duties were to coordinate the helicopter rescue efforts from his station in Thailand.

Over the years, Garner has flown many different types of aircraft for the Air Force, from B-29, B52 and B-36 bombers to cargo carriers including the C-41 which he called “Gooney Birds” and C-123s.

When asked how he became involved with the Circle of Angels Initiative, Garner stated that a friend of his gave his name to the organization. “I had never heard of them, but I checked them out on the Internet and they are a beneficial organization helping a lot of people,” said Garner.

According to Roseanna Vogt from Circle of Angels Initiative, “We are very involved in community building both locally and globally. Our issues concern the prevention of violence, prevention for people with risky behaviors, the mentally ill, veterans, the elderly and the recently incarcerated. Because we are concerned with these people we are advocates for affordable health and housing, poverty elimination and mentoring.”

Vogt indicated that the USO reenactment event is a good fit for the Circle of Angels because of its concern with mentoring and prevention. “We see it as an event to demonstrate what people can do when confronted, when asked or drafted, to meet issues bigger than they are.”

People like Garner met their times with spirit, determination and willingness during WWII. “We believe that the story of their sacrifice must be told, especially to young people,” said Vogt. “In reenacting the time, we want to rally ourselves with the hope that the issues we face today may look as insurmountable as the Nazi war machine or the Kamikaze pilots, like them will be overcome in the end. We also point out that both of the countries who produced such terror are now our friends.”

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