Men and women who have served or are serving in the military will be honored during the Armed Forces Day Celebrating Freedom & Honoring Service Banquet Saturday evening at the Amarillo Civic Center Complex.
American Fallen Warrior Memorial Foundation President and Board of Directors Jack Barnes said this is their day of recognition.
“It’s important as citizens that we pause and extend our gratitude and respect to those who serve our country,” Barnes said. “It’s a very important holiday as the country continues in the war on terrorism.”
The banquet will feature highly anticipated speaker Kris “Tanto” Paronto, a retired CIA operative and a former Army Ranger from the 2nd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment. Paronto will share his story of fighting in the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya.
“He has a very compelling story of sacrifice and courage that he will be sharing with the audience,” Barnes said.
Paronto, part of the CIA annex security team, responded to the terrorist attack on the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi on Sep. 11, 2012. He was one of the four survivors and helped save 20 lives while fighting off terrorists from the CIA annex for over 13 hours, according to his website, kristantoparonto.com.
Paronto’s story is told in the book “13 Hours” by Mitchell Zuckoff and he was depicted in the movie “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.”
Military, veterans, families and 33 gold star families will be honored. The banquet will have a special wreath presentation for a family, a battlefield memorial and more.
“Our military serve and sacrifice each and every day,” Barnes said. “Families are separated, are left behind and they have to continue going forward with their daily lives knowing that they have loved ones on the battlefield or stationed around the world.”
Phil Taylor of the American Fallen Soldiers Project will present a painted portrait of a fallen hero to a family.
“It’s very important that we do that because these families live with that sacrifice every day and we can show our compassion in thanks and gratitude to these families as we celebrate freedom and honor of their fallen heroes,” Barnes said.
With 1,300 reservations made, Barnes thinks this year’s banquet will be the largest they’ve ever had. He also thinks it’s going to be the “best event we’ve ever had,” as it should be.
“Are we not fighting a war? Yes,” Barnes said. “Aren’t we supposed to honor our military? I think we’re supposed to honor our military every day, but do we do that? No. The war is outside; out of mind … war is war. We’re going to lose people and we need to do our duty to honor them.”