A crowd of more than 70 gathered recently at the Masonic Lodge in Rocky Mount for the Masons’ annual dinner to honor veterans. The Masons have been hosting the dinner for about 10 years.

Keith Snead, one of the event organizers, who is also a veteran, said the dinner is a way of expressing gratitude to veterans for their service.

“It’s always an honor to have the veterans come in and share a meal with us,” Snead said. “It’s an opportunity for us to give back to them.”

Snead’s father, Robert, is also a veteran and lodge member.

After the meal and presentation of colors from the Franklin County High School Air Force JROTC, a team from Faith Fellowship Veterans Ministry performed a flag-folding ceremony.

Frank Flora, founder of the ministry and a Navy Vietnam War veteran, said when veterans finish their service, they often don’t get together with other veterans. The ministry brings veterans together for fellowship and healing.

The Masons are a fraternal organization dedicated to serving the community and helping members improve their own moral standards. The Rocky Mount Masons donate part of their building to Heavenly Manna Food Bank and have monthly meetings the third Thursday of each month.

Wayne Parks is a retired veteran who served in the Army for 20 years as a combat engineer. He also helped organize the dinner.

“It’s nice to meet the other veterans and let them know they’re appreciated,” he said.

After the ceremony, about 20 veterans introduced themselves.

Don Riggs and his wife, Pat, have been to several of the Masons’ dinners for veterans. He said he enjoys listening to what others did in the service and getting to share his story. He retired in 1988 with 31 years of service as a Navy fighter pilot.

Leon Roberson, president of the Rocky Mount Masons Lodge and a veteran, said feedback about the evening was positive and felt it was one of the best veterans’ dinners the Masons have hosted.

“It’s something we look forward to every year,” Roberson said.

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