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As the first round of the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn approaches, tournament directors are looking to salute a group of citizens â€śthat donâ€™t get enough praiseâ€ť â€“ veterans.
This week, men and women of the armed forces, active duty and veterans will receive free admission to the tournament, officials announced recently. Each â€śAmerican heroâ€ť will be allowed to bring one guest.
â€śIn our eight-year history, we have done a few military salutes,â€ť executive tournament director Jim Correll said. â€śWith our June tournament dates, we follow the Memorial Day holiday, and as we think about the men and women who have served and continue to serve our great nation, we are looking forward to saluting them again just before the tournament begins.â€ť
A special opening ceremony honoring veterans will also be held prior to the start of the tournamentâ€™s first round Friday. At 7:30 a.m., a bag piper will play the National Anthem with colors presented by the Wounded Warrior Foundation. Vietnam veteran, World Golf Hall of Fame member and Champions Tour golfer Larry Nelson will participate in a flag-raising ceremony along with the Hickory High School junior ROTC flag detail. The ceremony will conclude with a Three Volley Salute from a military firing detail, the sounding of Taps by Hickory High Schoolâ€™s Cadet Master Sgt. Corey Hefner and Amazing Grace by bag piper Kim Elder.
Charles Holden, 67, of Caldwell County, is a Vietnam veteran working with Griffith Security during the Greater Hickory Classic week.
â€śWe have done far too less for Vietnam veterans,â€ť Holden said. â€śFreedom is paid in blood and bodies, but itâ€™s about time we honor that.â€ť
Holden, who served in Vietnam from 1968-1969, said special ceremonies and events help veterans ease back into society when they return from war.
â€śWe are doing much better at honoring veterans than we used to,â€ť Holden said. â€śAll they need is someone to recognize them for what they are sacrificing, and I think Rock Barn has done that well.â€ť
Holden is also a â€śveteranâ€ť of the Classic, spending the last nine years working security at the VIP parking lot outside Rock Barnâ€™s clubhouse.
He said volunteers and event organizers have been â€śexceptionally niceâ€ť throughout the last decade, and he appreciates being recognized.
Britt Griffith, owner of Griffith Security, said about 70 percent of his employees are veterans. After originally just â€śhelping outâ€ť with the tournament nearly 10 years ago, Griffith said his company is now the main security at the Classic.
â€śThey need to be respected for the sacrifice they have given,â€ť Griffith said. â€śThey deserve every bit of that.â€ť
Griffith said he employs veterans because security skill sets match their military background.
â€śItâ€™s great that they are doing this, because itâ€™s showing respect for when they give the ultimate sacrifice,â€ť Griffith said.
Members of the military and one guest must show a current military or veteranâ€™s identification card at Rock Barnâ€™s main gate to receive free entry to the Classic.
For more information on the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn, call (828) 459-4000 or visit greaterhickoryclassic.com .