SSL reception honors city veterans
Jul 27, 2017 10:58AM ● Published by Travis Barton
South Salt Lake held its first Veterans Appreciation Reception at the Columbus Community Center on July 3. (Jentry Hadin/South Salt Lake Recreation)
Wendy Griffin is a South Salt Lake resident, recently finished serving as the state commander of Utah’s Veterans of Foreign Wars and was honored along with dozens of other veterans on the eve of Independence Day.
The Columbus Community Center played host to the first Veterans Appreciation Reception, put on by South Salt Lake to recognize and honor the veterans who live in the city.
“It’s really nice to know the city appreciates their veterans and their service,” said Griffin, who served in the Air Force from 1983-1990.
For a first-time event, city officials felt great about the night’s proceedings.
“The turnout tonight was amazing. Our expectations were blown out of the water,” said Mayor Cherie Wood. “We don’t ever know when you’re having the first annual anything, but we were pleasantly surprised and so grateful that people came out and participated.”
The night saw Griffin and 27 other veterans honored with a flag—all of which were recently flown over city hall—and a certificate thanking them for their service.
Aaron Wiet, recreation director, said the appreciation dinner has been an idea from the mayor for the past several years. But putting it together specifically within the community proved difficult.
“Of course we want to thank all the vets, but we wanted to do something for the vets here in this community,” Wiet said.
It wasn’t until they found Griffin, with her vast network of contacts from her time with VFW that they were able to lift the idea off the ground.
Griffin was the speaker for the veterans on an evening that also had dinner and information tables about veterans services, housing improvement resources and Service Paws and Patriots—an organization that trains service dogs to help veterans.
Tink, a service dog, demonstrated for those in attendance the types of skills these dogs could offer such as fetching a bottle of water for someone or retrieving a dropped cell phone.
Service Paws and Patriots are accepting applications on their website pawsandpatriots.us for Tink, with the winner expected to be announced in September.
“Fingers crossed, it’s one of the veterans in our community,” Wood said.
Mark Miller, one of the Service Paws and Patriots sponsors, contacted the city about what the program offered shortly after they began planning the appreciation reception.
“It feels like all the stars aligned for this event to occur,” Wood said.
Griffin, who served in Korea, Philippines and Honduras, said the event was great and is excited to see what happens next year.
“It’s so good to know that our non-veteran mayor and city council appreciates us too and is willing to honor us for our service,” she said.
Wiet’s father-in-law served in the Korean War in the Air Force and is also a Granite High alum. He said these types of events are great for veterans and those honoring them.
“To get recognized as a veteran, I think is something that everybody should do and should do more often because I don’t think people realize our freedom is because of them,” Wiet said later adding the most important aspect is showing appreciation and gratitude.
“That’s why we wanted to put something like this on.”
Though it was a first-time event, it could become a staple for South Salt Lake’s Independence Day programming.
“We’re really hopeful it’ll be twice as big next year,” Wood said. “This is absolutely, I think the turnout tonight demands that this is an event that becomes a tradition in our community.”