By Cathy Patton
NORTHFORK – Every Friday for the past five years, members of the New Vision Church, pastored by the Rev. Tyrone Carper, have donned red shirts in recognition of the many brave men and women who serve in our military.
Initiated by church member Drema Hairston, New Vision’s Red Shirt Friday is a much-touted activity that spawned what has become a popular, community-wide salute to veterans each November.
“The Lord inspired me to do this in 2007,” Hairston said. “It’s so simple but means so much. Initially, only I and a few members of the church wore red shirts, but I persisted and now, as far as I know, all the members wear red shirts every Friday.”
When the annual veterans salute is held, Hairston said the church is literally awash in red, along with plenty of white and blue.
“All the veterans who attended the program in 2011 received a ‘Happy Veterans Day’ card and an invitation to the 2012 program,” Hairston said. “The program, ‘Honor our Veterans/ Support our Troops’, was held November 17 this year.
“We decorated the upstairs and downstairs with flags, balloons and stars in patriotic colors and even matched tablecloths and utensils to the patriotic theme. The Lord has blessed us to do this. Everybody really enjoys it. You’d be surprised to see the people who attend.”
Hairston related that she and co-organizer Brenda Powell and their group of “willing workers” are able to stage the annual veterans salute because of the generosity of church members and David Dunson, Black Diamond Pharmacy.
“We don’t raise money for it. Church members dig into their own pockets to pay for everything,” Hairston said. “Black Diamond Pharmacy donates most of the food and we prepare it. We try to make it nice and do something different every year. The community is welcome and we always have more than enough for everybody.”
This year, Hairston said the veterans in attendance received a certificate of appreciation, a gift bag, a red shirt and a flag pin.
“We also make sure they go through the dinner line first,” she said. “We do all we can to make them feel special and let them know they’re appreciated.”
To underscore their appreciation for veterans, New Vision members and their guests read poems, sang songs and performed various ceremonies that lauded veterans.
Brenda Powell introduced the many vets in the audience and Linda Jones welcomed them. James Crawley responded to the welcome. Johnny Williams prayed. Veterans Lindsey Bethel and Howard Robertson did the presentation of colors. Jessie Younger led the saluting and the folding of the flag. Aljurita Thomas presented each veteran a flag pin. Tarshemia Watterson read a psalm. The Carper family, Teresa Redd, Ruben Wright and Michael Taylor sang and Sherman Brown stirred the audience with “God Bless America” and the military version of “It’s Alright”. Brenda Powell read “Mother of a Soldier” and Hairston recited “Red Shirt Friday”. Doug Morrow shared the meaning of each item on “The Fallen Comrade Table” and Ruben Wright played Taps.
Keynote speaker Ellis Ray Williams received a standing ovation after reciting two patriotic poems and veterans Steven Hairston and Johnny Williams and other veterans shared their memories of military service at the conclusion of the salute.
Other participants included Mack Hale, servers Vondalere Scott, Tonya Woody and Keisha Powell and Videographer Shannon Smith. Programs for the event were designed by Doug Morrow and featured a poem by Zniah Craighead. Lloyd Glenn, Grady Price, John Pack and Keith Phillips also assisted with the Honor our Veterans/ Support our Troops Program.
“It’s a lot of work but our veterans are worth it,” Hairston said. “We’re happy to do it.”