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Veterans should never be forgotten, and if C.T. Christie has anything to say about it, never will be.
Christie, a Kentucky Patriots volunteer, hopes to raise awareness of the needs of veterans and encourage volunteerism, especially by other veterans.
“They just got to get more involved helping each other,” Christie said.
The Rineyville man follows his own advice.
About three years ago, Christie began volunteering with Kentucky Patriots, an organization founded by Donna Betson of Vine Grove. The organization is made up of on-call volunteers who attend services for deceased veterans at Kentucky Veterans Cemetery-Central, two if family is going to be present and as many as possible if there is no family to attend.
Having started out as a substitute, Christie has become a fully active volunteer, calling in Monday through Friday to find out if he is needed. He has attended more than 1,100 services, he said.
The ones that mean the most to Christie are the services for which the fallen soldier had nobody else to attend.
“It makes me feel good in my heart to do this,” Christie said.
When he first heard about the Kentucky Patriots volunteer program he was working with Betson on another project, Wreaths Across America. Wreaths Across America is a program designed to remember, honor and teach by providing wreath-laying ceremonies for veterans.
A veteran himself, Christie did two tours of Vietnam and earned the Bronze Star for heroism.
“I had my 19th, 20th and 21st birthdays in Vietnam,” he said.
Christie also has been a member of the Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club for more than 20 years. The club sponsors the Vietnam Veterans Memorial when it comes to Kentucky and rides in parades honoring veterans, among other activities.
Having helped establish a POW/MIA monument at Kentucky Veterans’ Cemetery-Central, Christie does what he can to maintain awareness of POWs and MIAs. He keeps the POW/MIA logo on his vehicles.
“People see it, and they remember,” he said.
Acknowledging veterans even came in the form of involvement in solving a 70-year-old mystery, too. A few years ago, Christie was among those who helped identify and recognize a veteran buried in an unmarked grave at St. Brigid Cemetery discovered in 1949.
“He’s got a heart for veterans,” said Chuck Heater, director of Kentucky Veterans Cemetery-Central.
Heater said Kentucky Patriots volunteers have dwindled from about 45 to four or five. Christie is at the cemetery every day, though, he said.
“He’s committed to the cause,” Heater said. “He backs it up.”
Christie, he said, also is a “humble guy.”
When it comes to veterans, Christie is all about raising awareness and seeking support. In fact, he encouraged the community to donate to Wreaths Across America or volunteer with Kentucky Patriots by calling Betson at (270) 319-2122. He also is looking for a bricklayer to do minor repairs to the POW/MIA monument and asks that one contact him at (270) 360-8863.
Betson said Christie is not the type to talk about himself much, describing him as selfless and dedicated to his country and the military. When volunteer numbers dropped for Kentucky Patriots, Betson discovered how reliable the veteran volunteer was.
“He’s been the one that’s stepped up,” she said.
Not only does Christie attend services regularly, he’s done so on days of personal pain, when he’s had trouble with his artificial. He periodically rests, but then proceeds.
“That’s dedication,” she said.
At ceremonies for Wreaths Across America, Christie stays to collect the wreaths afterward, too, she said.
Christie said many veterans need help and encourages volunteerism.
“Pay attention around you,” he said. “It’s not hard to see when someone needs something.”
MORE ABOUT C.T. CHRISTIE:
Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743 or email@example.com.