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Celebrating our veterans

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

More than 80 veterans and veteran spouses showed up at the Tommy Usher Pineland Center Friday, Nov. 9, for a luncheon in their honor hosted by Hiers-Baxley Funeral Homes.

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“Today, we live in a world that’s desperate for heroes,” Justin Baxley told the audience, adding that it was a privelege Friday to be in a room full of such heroes.

Retired U.S. Navy Lt. Commander and chaplin Eldin H. Luffman, of Ocala, was the event’s special guest speaker.

Luffman served as a Navy avaiation electrician in WW II and then, years later, as a Navy chaplin with the 1st Marines in Vietnam.

“I think that the main thing we want,” he told the audience, “is appreciation; to show that we’re appreciated.”

Luffman, who retired for the military in 1973, recently put out a book of his experiences as a Navy chaplin called  “Bringing God to War.”

The book chronicles his times spent with the U.S. Marines in Vietnam.

“I volunteered to go with the Marines. My wife thought I was crazy,” he said, adding that it was the best year of his ministry.

“Wherever the troops go, that’s where the chaplins go.”

Luffman also went over a brief history of each branch of the military, later asking those in attendance to stand when their respective branches were named.

A summary of his time in Vietnam, according to Luffman, was best described in the words written on his combat helmet: “God is with us always, especially in Vietnam.”