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02/28/2012

Veterans saluted as 'champions of freedom' at Winchester Breakfast




NWTF editorial director Burt Carey presents a Rossi .22 LR/20 gauge with interchangeable barrels donated by Lee and Joan Johnson to Marine Staff Sgt. Scott Whitlock at the Winchester Breakfast.


Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Buck Bedard delivers the keynote speech during the Winchester Breakfast.

Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Buck Bedard saluted American military veterans as "champions of freedom" during the Feb. 11 Winchester Breakfast at the 2012 NWTF National Convention and Sport Show.

"In my opinion, you truly are the hidden heroes of this great country," said Bedard while addressing several dozen military veterans at the annual veterans' breakfast. "As veterans, you carry a torch of courage and all that is decent, patriotic and selfless. You understand what freedom really means."

Veterans from each branch of service were awarded commemorative pins at the breakfast.

Marine Staff Sgt. Scott Whitlock presented the NWTF with an American flag that flew over his camp in Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Whitlock, who was wounded in 2003 in the battle for Fallujah in Iraq and later served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, led the gathering in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Whitlock was presented with a single-shot Rossi .22/20 gauge, donated by California State Chapter president Lee Johnson and wife Joan. The gun had been the first item raffled off at the previous day's hunt auction.

The Brass Band of Nashville provided music, including the National Anthem. World War II aviator Bob Boykin was recognized. The program ended with the playing of "Taps" in memory of soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Bedard praised the performance of the current American forces in the Middle East as "superb," noting the great improvements made for local populations that are rarely reported.

"It almost brings a tear to your eye, and certainly a thump to your heart, when you take a look at their professionalism," Bedard said.

Bedard also saluted the "selflessness" of military families and called for continued pursuit of terrorists throughout the world.

"We should not stop the war on global terrorism until the mission is done and our commanders say it's done," Bedard said. "It shouldn't become a political timetable."

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