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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — To the descendants of America’s first veterans, honoring the fallen or forgotten is a sacred responsibility shown with Tuesday’s annual national defense luncheon.

“Our veterans are at the heart of everything we do,” Alabama Daughters of the American Revolution Vice President Malinda Shackelford said. “They are bred into our mission and what we stand for.”

The event featured a white table dedication to fallen and missing Vietnam War soldiers, some of whom Zygmund Jastrebski of the Madison County Military Heritage Commission served with.

“They started this white table ceremony in remembrance of those who were killed in action or were prisoners of war in Hanoi,” Jastrebski said. “And the table itself is a remembrance activity for those people who can’t be here, our missing military. And those who we miss at this time of year for Veterans Day.”

The lunch also cast a light on struggles modern veterans face: homelessness in women, of which Athens resident and former Army Medical Services Corps captain, and Ms Veteran America 2020 Mary Ann Hotaling is an advocate.

“(Veterans have) the fastest-growing rate of homelessness for women in America,” Hotaling said. “The women homeless veterans don’t have the same resources that their male counterparts have.”

“The Ms Veteran America contest is first for celebrating women in the military, but also finding that national ambassador that’s going to advocate for those homeless women veterans and make sure that they get those resources that they deserve,” Hotaling said.

“Without our veterans, we wouldn’t even be here,” Shackelford said. “It’s just a great opportunity for us to continue what our forefathers started, and just continue to celebrate honor and remember all veterans for all wars.”