Billy Graham Library Says ‘Thank You’ to Veterans and Active-Duty Military
July 10, 2015
Without the bright blue shirt, 6-year-old Kaitlyn would have been lost among the dozens of men and women in camouflage fatigues. Her legs didn’t quite touch the floor as she sat at the table, eating a barbecue sandwich.
Her uncle and Air National Guard member Travis McDowell later held her hand as Kaitlyn was interviewed about the military luncheon they attended together on Friday.
“Do you know what your uncle does?”
She thought for a moment, then took a guess: “…Work?”
More than 150 people from all branches of the military filled the Billy Graham Library Dairy Bar Friday for a free lunch to honor them for their service. One Army veteran, sitting down to eat with a couple of new acquaintances, said he has a history with Billy Graham’s ministry.
In 1958, David Sloop was at a Crusade in Charlotte, North Carolina, when a tall, handsome preacher named Billy Graham took the stage. Eight years later, he saw the preacher again while serving in Vietnam. Billy Graham had come to encourage the troops that Christmas.
“I thought it was special that their team was there to minister to us,” he said.
Fast forward 40 years to 2006 when Sloop and his wife visited the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove for a Christmas program. It was there Sloop introduced himself to world-renowned Gospel singer George Beverly Shea, who was with Billy Graham in Vietnam.
Friday, Sloop again found himself in the midst of Mr. Graham’s ministry as he got to know two other veterans at the Library luncheon. One was Curtis Cathey.
Cathey served in the Navy during World War II and visited the Library for the first time Friday with friend and fellow Navy veteran, Bill Moore.
Moore, who spent time in Vietnam, attended last year’s military luncheon, too.
“A lot of people, even though they say ‘Thank you for serving,’ don’t know what we’ve gone through,” he said. But events like this, Moore added, acknowledge that service and give non-service members an appreciation for those who fight for the country.
“The hardest thing for me is being away from family,” Brittany Waller said.
Waller joined the military five years ago and laughs when she gives one of her reasons for signing up: “My older brother was in the military. I guess I thought if he can do it, I can do it better.”
But that also meant leaving her family in New Jersey and relocating to North Carolina. She’s found a new family in the process; her fiancé is in the Army, and Friday, she attended the luncheon with former Library volunteer Hope Crockett, who serves with Waller in the Air National Guard.
Library Vice President Tom Phillips later told the crowd about each of his family members who have served and shared how important military personnel are to the Library.
“We have a vested interest not only in the warfare of the kingdom of God, but in the warfare of our country,” he said.
Dr. Leon Threatt, a former Marine and founder of Christian Faith Assembly of Charlotte, also encouraged the crowd with a short message about his own service, which began in Honolulu.
“I was stationed in paradise but empty and lost,” he said. But then he found hope.
“I came to know Christ while serving in the military.”
Serving God and country are both important, he said, but serving God is what makes a nation great. And that happens one person at a time.
“You are essential to the safety and well-being of this great nation,” he said.
Military Appreciation Month continues at the Billy Graham Library through July 31.