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Bedford County man leads effort to remember those serving in military

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By Mike Forster

    He’ll let you get away with forgetting plenty of things.
    -You can forget an appointment to meet with him.  No sweat!
    -You can forget to bring an umbrella on a rainy afternoon.  That’s OK.
    -You can forget what day of the week it is.  No worries!
    But, as far as Steve Bozeman is concerned, you’d best not forget about our military.  That’s the one thing he won’t forgive.
    Bozeman’s name has become synonymous with sustaining attention on veterans’ issues and causes, as well as keeping the sacrifices of our active duty personnel in our collective conscience.
    Though he is one of Bedford’s own (living in the Eagle Eyrie part of the county since 1975), Bozeman has centered his activity on the larger region. 
    A long drink of water with a quick smile, Bozeman is not a hard man to find.  Swing by the lower portion of Lynchburg’s Monument Terrace on Friday, at noon; you’ll find him there, just as he’s been for over 500 Fridays.

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    Bozeman and a handful of dedicated patriots take over that spot.  With signs, flags and symbolic displays, the group grabs the attention of passersby, both pedestrian and driver alike.
    The message is simple:  Support our troops. 
    What message would be delivered from Monument Terrace had been in question.  Following the 9/11 attacks, the spot became a focal point for anti-war protesters.
    Bozeman helped organize a rally to counteract what he calls the “peaceniks.”  On Nov. 30, 2001, more than 100 people showed up at Monument Terrace to show their support for active duty service members.
    According to Bozeman, his group and the peaceniks coexisted for about six months.  After that, the veterans had run of the place.  The group is now starting its 12th year.
    Bozeman has come a long way from his birthplace of Montgomery, Ala.  Between there and here, he took a life-altering journey to a distant land called Vietnam, one of the many marines who served in that war.
    Bozeman joined the U.S. Marines as a 19 year-old to be an aviation mechanic.  He spent a lot of time in helicopters over his two tours in the country.
    Bozeman earned two Purple Hearts in Vietnam.  He said, “That’s one medal you don’t want to win.” 
    He also earned a Navy Commendation Medal (with combat “V” for valor) when a medevac flight on which he was a crew member was shot down.  After escaping the wreck, Bozeman returned to the helicopter to pull his wounded comrade from the burning hull.  “The best medal is a live man’s smile,” he noted of his reward.
    On a recent Friday afternoon, Bozeman was joined by a handful of grizzled men.  Most had served in Vietnam.  Others had been in Desert Storm or Korea.  One World War II veteran hobbled into the mix.
    Some were white.  Some were black.  A woman with no military background joined the group for part of the afternoon.
    The single thread that unites this group is love of country and love of military.
    It’s that love which has brought this group out to Monument Terrace for precisely 580 consecutive weeks.  They rally every Friday:  in snow, on holidays (including Christmas), in rain, in baking sun.
    Sometimes the group’s numbers are no more than a basketball team.  Other times, it approaches 100 participants.
    Bozeman’s group continues to meet to try and keep us from forgetting.  He wants us to remember those who we’ve dispatched to the world’s cesspools to do the work that none of the rest of us care to do or are capable of doing.
    He wants us to thank those who have sacrificed part of their youth to endure physical hardship and psychological agony because we have asked them to do so.
    “We have troops in harm’s way and some are getting killed,” Bozeman said.  “It’s so easy for people to forget about our troops.”
    But, as numerous people drove past, tooting their horns and giving the thumbs-up gesture to the men, what became clear is this:  We won’t forget, if Steve Bozeman has his way.
    Bozeman encourages you to like the group’s Facebook page “Monument Terrace Troop Rally” and view photos of the effort, there.