BRANSON, Mo. — Veterans from all over the country are reuniting in Branson this week for the annual Veterans Homecoming Week.
The Americana Theater was full of veterans and their families attending The Opening Ceremonies for a full week of planned events.
“We have entertainers, others that are going to be singing,” said Dee Elledge who helps organize the veteran’s week events. “And I’ll talk a little bit, Mr. Wilhite. We’ll talk a little bit. And then we’re just going to tell him about the activities that are going to be going on this week, which is just exciting.”
The City of Branson goes all out year after year for Veterans Homecoming Week.
Mary Schantag Chairman of the POW Network said one day for veterans is just not enough.
“So for 27 years, Veteran’s Day has been a week-long event here in Branson,” Schantag said. “And every year it expands a little bit more and gets bigger and bigger as the veterans come back and bring their friends and their families because they found a work a home away from home in Branson.”
Branson is known as one of the most veteran-friendly cities year-round, but the week before Veteran’s Day is a special event.
“So there’s a something from everybody from World War Two on to our active duty soldiers,” Schantag said. “Just so we can tell them how much they are appreciated. Because as a young man right inside the building says, our veterans are underappreciated.”
Veterans at the opening ceremonies said they look forward to coming to Branson each year to reunite with fellow servicemen and women.
“They’ve become family for us. We look for them year after year. ” Schantag said. “We recognize the faces; we remember the stories and we look for them. And when they don’t show up, it’s hard.”
Veterans are traveling to Branson this week from all over the country and the world, and for many, it’s a place they return to every year.
“They come home,” Elledge said. “Branson is the largest, longest-running veterans celebration in the United States.”
“As a colonel, you get asked to do certain things on special days,” said Colonel James Wilhite the Veteran’s Film Festival Organizer. “Veterans Day, will you come speak to our group? No, I’m in Branson. That’s an annual commitment.”