As a veteran himself, Jim Hunziker, president of the Georgia Vietnam Veterans Alliance's 12th chapter, knows how lonely it can sometimes be for those who served in the military after they return home.
But he's also seen some of that loneliness fade from local veterans during the GVVA's yearly barbecue, which brings former servicemen from all branches of the military together for food and fellowship.
GVVA will again host its annual Armed Forces Day Barbecue for veterans of any war and their families on Saturday, May 20 in LaFayette.
The 15-year tradition has attracted 700-800 people each spring, and Hunziker hopes it will do the same once more.
This year's guest speaker is local historian James Scott, who served from 2004-2011 and co-founded the Student Veterans Organization at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Since 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the year the United States entered World War I, Scott's presentation will focus on The Great War.
The LaFayette JROTC will perform a ceremony to honor those missing in action, and attendees will hear live music played by band Taylors Ridge. There will be activities, like an inflatable bouncy house and an animal petting station, for children, and door prizes for adults. There will also be a raffle to win a Beretta 9mm.
Most importantly, Hunziker said, veterans will have a chance to meet and talk with others who understand their experiences and can relate to war abroad and life at home.
"They can relate because they've been there, too," Hunziker agreed. "It's a celebration to let them know they are not forgotten."
The event is free for veterans, their families and GVVA supporters. Beginning at noon, it will be held on Veterans Drive off Homer Cagle Road. Signs will be posted to guide those hoping to attend.