Gatlinburg is formally honoring the valiant men and women who have and are currently serving our country during the Veterans Day Celebration on November 11 at 11:00 a.m. at the Plaza at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Veterans Day National Committee recognize the ceremony, now in its 17th year, as an official Regional Site for the Observance of Veterans Day. Retired Major General Robert A. Nester is the keynote speaker for the day and will be joined by his USAF Pilot Training Class from 1965, in town for their second ever class reunion.
“We are honored and excited to welcome Major General Nester, his class of fellow commissioned pilots, as well as so many other service men and women from other branches of the armed forces who will be in attendance” said CEO/President of the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, Mark Adams. “The sacrifice made by each and every veteran across this country is incomparable, and we are grateful to be able to show our appreciation with such a special event in Gatlinburg.”
The event features entertainment by the 82nd Airborne All American Chorus and the Gatlinburg-Pittman High School Band. Gatlinburg Boy Scout Troop 111, Girl Scout Troop 20648 and the American Eagle Foundation will make special presentations.
A retired Vietnam veteran, Maj. Gen. Nester has served in over 180 combat missions, flown more than a dozen aircrafts, acted as an instructor pilot on many occasions throughout his career and served as Mobilization Assistant to the Chief of the Air Force Reserve Command. Through his civilian work, he has been Traffic Manager for Chevrolet, pilot for five different airlines and Air Carrier Operations Inspector for the FAA. He is currently an Expert Witness for aircraft accident litigations.
Special guests to this year’s ceremony are Maj. Gen. Nester’s graduating USAF Pilot Training Class 65F. Members of the 44-pilot class are meeting for their second ever reunion since becoming commissioned officers in 1965. The pilots hale from 13 different states. Their class accomplishments include three major generals, six colonels, one Thunderbird pilot, 42 Vietnam combat missions, three Silver Star Medals, 30 Distinguished Flying Crosses, one Bronze Star and 12 major airline captains.