2019 Savannah Chamber Military Affairs Council’s Military Appreciation Luncheon

The Savannah Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Council welcomed a room filled with Patriots (civilians, military veterans, and active duty military) for a luncheon program today (5-15-19) at the Trade Center in their honor.

Following the welcome, the emcee asked for a moment of silence to honor the memory of Sergeant Kelvin Ansari and the family he leaves behind.  Sergeant Ansari, a 20-year Army veteran, and a devoted, respected veteran member of the Savannah Police Department, was gunned down last weekend in Savannah, making the ultimate sacrifice while serving others in the community he loved.

Following that tribute moment, the folks at the head table were introduced:  Bill Hubbard, CEO, Savannah Chamber, LTC Ken Dwyer, Garrison Commander, Hunter Army Airfield, Lieutenant Nathan Brock, USCG Air Station Savannah, and incoming Chamber chair for 2020, Jon Pannell.  Immediately following, the attendees stood for the presentation of the Colors, the National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance (led by John Pannell), and the Invocation (provided by Lieutenant Brock).   Following some additional comments, lunch was served.

Next, the guest speaker was introduced.  LTC Ken Dwyer, an active duty Green Beret, was severely injured in Afghanistan combat (2006), when, in an instant, the shrapnel from an RPG air-burst took off his left hand, his left eye, damaged his throat (unable to speak or speak clearly for weeks), and tore up his upper right arm.  At a field surgical unit, his guardian angel prevented the ultimate loss of his right arm at the shoulder.  After multiple surgeries and months of recuperation, Dwyer not only regained his full infantry status, but ultimately he actually jumped from an aircraft, regaining his airborne status as well!  He deployed for the fourth time to Afghanistan in 2012. LTC Dwyer spoke from his own experience, urging the audience not to quit when life throws unexpected challenges at you, and don’t let others tell you what you can’t do, when with patience, preparation, training, and encouragement, you actually can.  It was a fine motivational address. Dwyer received a standing ovation, both at the start of his speech, and at the conclusion.  He was the highlight of the event, no question.

Following LTC Dwyer, military members of the year from Savannah’s five-branch components were announced and presented with a nice award.  Honorees were: Petty Officer Kristofer Schaus (USCG); Fire Command Aegis Petty Officer First-Class Eric Welch (Navy); Specialist Adam Rydlicki (Army); Senior Airman Justin Beggs (GA Air Guard); Staff Sergeant John Giarrusso (Marines); and Army LTC (retired) Doug Andrews (Civilian of the Year).

Comments followed from the podium reminding everyone about the approach of Memorial Day, and the high cost in American lives to gain, and maintain, our freedom.  Beyond beach and barbeque, attendees were urged to devote at least part of that special day of remembrance, reflecting on the great number of American lives, lost from 1775 to the present, and how deeply grateful we all must be for their ultimate sacrifice which has made possible, through the generations, our security, sovereignty, and freedom.

The American flag was presented at the outset of this event by the 3rd I.D. Honor Guard from Fort Stewart, with music performed by members of the 3rd I.D. band, both of which added tremendously to the spirit and meaning of this appreciation luncheon.  All in all, a very well-received, patriotic event.  With sincere thanks to (Mrs.) Drew Hunt, Chamber military liaison, for the incredible amount of work it took to coordinate this very successful appreciation luncheon.