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Several veterans make a toast at the 24th Annual Military Gala & Banquet at Chateau on the Lake on Sunday. The gala is one of many events in Branson during Veterans Homecoming Week.

I first arrived in the Branson area in 1988. I have been a permanent resident of the Tri-Lakes area since 1992 and a resident of Branson proper since 1998. One thing that has been evident is that Veterans Day is a little different here.

After the 2001 terror attacks, when the country saw more outward support of veterans and first responders, I heard many individuals say about Branson, “We supported veterans before it was cool.”

That was certainly true. Not that there wasn’t support of veterans elsewhere around the country, but Branson was always a place where random individuals would thank a veteran for their service. No prompting. No peer pressure. No profit to be had. Just a simple thank you.

In Branson, Veterans Day became Veterans Homecoming Week with a full seven days of activities, shows, reunions, gatherings, and the space and time to visit and swap stories.

Nevertheless, Veterans Day has always been “the” day. All you need to know is that this year’s Branson Veterans Day Parade is the 88th annual parade in downtown Branson. This year’s parade will be a little smaller than past years because of the pandemic, but it is still going on and – aside from the pandemic – it has remained a strong and growing tradition here in Branson. I am confident it will continue to be a strong and growing tradition in Branson for many years to come.

Sometimes visitors to Branson are surprised at the year-round welcoming nature toward veterans. I think it’s safe to say it’s not a surprise to anyone, like me, who has been here a while. I think most locals, if asked why Branson is so welcoming to veterans, might respond with “Why wouldn’t we be?”

Then again, everyone is welcome in Branson. And the reason for that could probably be expressed as, “Why wouldn’t they be?”

But, to be clear, if you are reading this, and you are veteran, or if you are a loved one of a veteran, you are in the right place here in Branson.

Pull up a chair. Get comfortable. Welcome home.

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