By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Frank Cooley, general chairman, greeted Brigadier General David Buckalew, joint staff director of the West Virginia Army National Guard with the traditional greeting for the annual Welch 40&8 Dinner that is traditionally held the night before the annual Veterans Day Parade.
“We welcome you to our town,” Cooley said. “Hopefully, we’ll have a good crowd out (today) for our event. As our communities get smaller, it gets more challenging to get volunteers to help with the parade, but there’s always a great turnout for the parade.”
“I know about the history of this parade,” Buckalew said prior to the start of the dinner. “I’ve seen the list of speakers who have been here through the years, and it is an impressive list. This is Post No. 8, of the American Legion, so you know it has a long tradition.”
Indeed, Welch Post No. 8’s charter dates back to 1919, when the American Legion was founded. On Nov. 11, 1919, Hanford MacNider, national commander of the American Legion was the speaker at the first Welch Veterans Day Parade. Truman spoke twice, including in 1941 when he was a U.S. Senator and again in 1957, as a former U.S. president. Vice President Lyndon Johnson spoke in 1963, less than two weeks before President John Kennedy was assassinated. The list of speakers includes Gen. Chuck Yeager and more.
Buckalew pointed out that the role of the National Guard has changed since the first Gulf War and the present war on terrorism. “The National Guard has become an operational reserve,” he said. Buckalew pointed out that the Guard’s ability to serve as a “dual mission force,” to be ready to deploy in the U.S. to assist with natural disaster relief, as well as to be ready to deploy as a combat force if necessary.
Buckalew said that in the “budget battle ahead,” the National Guard has roots that extend back to the colonial militia, and is a much more cost effective solution way to address national security and the national missions.
The Welch Parade starts at 10 a.m. today.
— Contact Bill Archer at firstname.lastname@example.org