More than 1,000 people showed up for "On Wings of Eagles: a Tribute to Our American Heroes" Thursday night at the Payson High School auditorium. Among those who took the time to honor our country's war veterans was U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth. The congressman presented the French Medal of Liberty to local World War II veteran, Karl Knotts. We appreciate the congressman's commitment to our community. We know he was in the Valley earlier in the day for three other events and was scheduled to leave Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix at 9 p.m. to fly back to Washington, D.C. He could have easily canceled under the stress of his other commitments but he remained true to his promise to our local veterans.
Those attending the tribute enjoyed the dance routines of the Sun City Poms. The average age of the women in the group is 73. A Payson school bus driver picked up the group in Sun City on his day off and dropped the group back off at 2 a.m.
Randy Roberson emceed the two-hour show, which included music by the Payson Elementary School choir, the Payson Choral Society, the Payson High School band, local entertainer John Carpino and Barry Cardinael.
Gold Star mothers Lou Landers and June LeFeber, who both lost sons in World War II, received American flags from the Luke Air Force Base Honor Guard during a touching ceremony that didn't leave a dry eye in the house.
The second annual Veterans' Day celebration was organized by Payson residents Joe and Lee Pretsch. "It took a million phone calls," said Lee Pretsch.
But it took more than that. It took heart and love and dedication and a willingness to work, work, work. Joe and Lee Pretsch inspired others and presented a memorable tribute.
Thank you, Joe and Lee and everyone else who made this incredible event happen. Well done.