GRANBURY, Texas — Veterans and community groups in Granbury are marking the 20th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11 by making sure every first responder in Hood County knows they are valued and appreciated. They plan to make sure they know that by feeding every single one of them this Saturday.
The Riley Stephens Memorial VFW Post 7835 in Granbury on W. Highway 377 will host any and all Hood County first responders for a "Memorial Lunch," from noon to 2 p.m. on Sept. 11.
The Hood County Sheriff's Department, Granbury Police, Granbury Volunteer Fire and local Emergency Management Services personnel are invited to attend. The leaders of each agency will also choose a deserving member of their teams to be recognized for their service and to be given a $500 gift card.
Senator Brian Birdwell, a 9/11 survivor from the attacks on the Pentagon, will serve as keynote speaker.
"We have a lot of camaraderie here," VFW 7835 Commander Billy Wells said. "Some people think it's too much."
But Wells plans to spread that camaraderie as far as possible, with brisket and pulled pork and more for at least 200 people.
"They do super work protecting us and making sure we're safe," said Ricky Johnson, of American Legion Post 491, which has joined in the effort. "And we just want to honor them for their service."
This VFW post is named after Riley Stephens, an Army Green Beret and combat medic from nearby Tolar. He was killed by small arms fire in 2012 in Afghanistan during his 8th tour of the Middle East. A memorial tribute to him is on permanent display in the meeting hall where first responders will gather this weekend.
Stephens' sacrifice, the sacrifices of current first responders, and those who lost their lives on 9/11 will be honored and remembered on this 20th anniversary of the attacks.
"I couldn't believe it was happening," said Johnson, who paused to gather his emotions when asked about watching the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on TV.
"I'd like to say I pray for them and their families," Johnson said of today's first responders. "And the ones we've lost."
The event they plan to hold at the VFW post, for the men and women who still put their lives on the line, is mostly paid for. But anyone interested in helping support the event can make contributions in person at the VFW post or through this GoFundMe site.
"It'll be a really good meal," Wells said.
A good meal with a good, and still resonant, message.
"I want them to know that the veterans of the community are here to support them," Wells said. "We want to make them feel, in our community anyway, that they are supported and this our opportunity to do that."