When Bud Nelson, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 commander, thinks of the annual Hometown Heroes picnic, images of Rockwellian bliss come to mind.
"It's like ... the stuff you'd see in the Saturday Evening Post," said Nelson, a Vietnam veteran. "It's hometown stuff, and that's always nice. I know it makes me feel good, like what I did was appreciated, like what we all did was appreciated."
That little slice of Americana that comes with the Hometown Heroes Picnic takes place during the fourth annual event, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Craig City Park. The event includes a free luncheon, VFW ceremonies, the singing of the National Anthem and the Star Spangled Banner and speeches from local veterans.
Nelson said events like Hometown Heroes serve to remind veterans that the pact they made to defend American values and beliefs isn't taken for granted.
"I think the message in this community is clear -- the town is thanking us," he said.
The Craig Daily Press sponsors Hometown Heroes with help from Pepsi, the VFW, City Market, KRAI, the Elk's Lodge and the VFW Ladies Auxiliary, among others.
Daily Press publisher Bryce Jacobson said the newspaper is honored to offer the community the opportunity to pay tribute to veterans. Jacobson said he hopes attendance this year eclipses last year's total of about 400 visitors.
Craig natives Cory and Greg Hixson, who both served two tours of duty in Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps, are scheduled to speak to the crowd. Craig resident Irene Losolla will perform the Star Spangled Banner and the National Anthem.
Local students -- second-grader John Peroulis and eighth-graders LaRissa Keller and Steven Wagner -- will read their award-winning poems from a Daily Press contest. The theme of the poems is "What a veteran means to me."
The VFW will present the colors and The Missing Man Table.
Nelson said he hopes community members and local veterans alike take part in the community picnic. Next year, he said, perhaps veterans from the current conflict in Iraq will be able to attend.
"I'd like to think in the next year they'd all be home," he said. "It's time to thank them for what they're doing, and we should."
Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or firstname.lastname@example.org.