SPRING HILL — Groups have baked and shipped homemade cookies to service members in Iraq and Afghanistan. Individuals and schoolchildren have donated and packed goodie boxes. A golfing community sent golf clubs and balls for the troops' leisure time.
On Saturday afternoon comes yet another local event to honor military personnel when 25 members of the Hernando Harmonizers take to the stage at Northcliffe Baptist Church for a "Salute to Our Veterans," a novel program in the Harmonizers' eight-year series of annual concerts.
"To make it a little more personal," show chairman Tom Rooney said, notable veterans will be featured as special guests.
The honorees include:
• Three brothers who served in the Pacific theater during World War II — Navy veteran Carl Laesch, 91, of Spring Hill; Army vet Harold Laesch, 86, a Bronze Star recipient, of Hudson; and ex-Marine Robert Laesch, 83, who lives in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
• Husband and wife Tom and Maebelle Harden of Spring Hill, both in their 80s and Air Force veterans. Tom flew B17s and B29s, logging more than 11,000 hours during WWII and Korea. Maebelle worked as an air traffic controller during WWII. During training, she was once pushed out of a two-engine aircraft by the pilot, who feared a crash landing. She had never jumped out of a plane before.
• Ken Bolen of Spring Hill, a 22-year Coast Guard veteran crew chief, who was instrumental in a cooperative effort with the Russians in a recovery effort after a Korean airliner was shot down in that country.
• Bob Normile, 91, of Spring Hill, who served nine years as an Air Force pilot on the staff of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. He also drove Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, who was forced to surrender Corregidor to the Japanese in May 1942.
• Lee Lund of Spring Hill, who spent four years as a Navy WAVE, assigning naval officers to posts around the world.
• Adam Freeman, 29, of Spring Hill, who served five tours of duty, including four in Iraq, with the Marines.
The program will include a synopsis of the honorees' military careers and their photos on a large-screen TV monitor.
The Harmonizers will perform anthems of each of service branch while veterans in the audience stand for recognition.
The performers will break out two quartets to sing special numbers. Joining them will be a guest quartet, Sunshine Sound.
The Hernando Harmonizers in 2007 were judged small chorus champions for the state of Florida at a competition in Jacksonville. That same year, the group's Sunset quartet took honors as senior quartet champions for the state, Rooney said.
Some 400 tickets have already been sold for Saturday's 2 p.m. performance, and Rooney and company are hoping to fill the church sanctuary and honor the veterans with as many as 850 music lovers.
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.