A Gold Star flag with the names of Hoosier veterans that were killed in action since September 11, 2001, is presented during the Indiana Blue Star Salute at the Hendricks County Fairgrounds in Danville, Ind., on June 21, 2014. (Photo by Lucas Carter/The American Legion)

Blue Star Salute draws large crowd

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The ninth annual Indiana Blue Star Salute drew nearly 1,000 people to the Hendricks County Fairgrounds in Danville, Ind., on June 21 to celebrate and honor families of the men and women who are currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Sponsored by American Legion Posts 145 in Avon, 331 in Brownsburg, 118 in Danville, 426 in Pittsboro, and 329 in Plainfield, this was the biggest event they’ve had since its inauguration in 2005.

Visitors qualified for a variety of door prizes including tickets to a water park and the Brickyard 400, and even a gun range membership. A number of dignitaries were in attendance, including Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (who has been at all nine events), Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., Adjutant General of Indiana Maj. Gen. Martin Umbarger, and National Vice President of Blue Star Mothers of America Judy Dorsey.

Pence noted that since he has served in Congress, he has carved out time to visit Hoosier soldiers in Afghanistan. “This Blue Star Salute is a tribute to this community, it’s a tribute to the state, and it shows that here in Indiana we love those who serve in the uniform for all of us," he said. Pence noted that some of the families present were Gold Star family members who had paid the ultimate price. “You honor us with your presence.”

Umbarger noted that while Indiana is the 15th largest state in terms of population, its National Guard is the fourth largest in the country. “I’m very proud of that” he said. “It shows that good Midwestern and Hoosier patriotism, and today is all about our Blue Star families.”

Rokita echoed the others, saying, “It’s an important event that gets me into a suit and tie on a Saturday and this certainly is that. I’m honored to be here to recognize the sacrifice of all the families.”

The festivities began with the arrival of more than 300 American Legion Riders, Patriot Guard Riders and affiliated patriotic motorcycle clubs who participated in the Ride for the Salute, which raised donations for The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund. As they arrived under an enormous American flag hoisted by the Danville Fire Department, a UH1 “Huey” helicopter landed, provided by the Indiana Air Search and Rescue. On hand to sign autographs and take pictures were cheerleaders from the Indianapolis Colts and Pacers, and Blue – the official mascot of the Colts.

“This is our ninth year,” said Ralph "Zoc" Zoccolillo, Indiana Blue Star Salute Committee Chairman and a member of Post 145. “I guarantee next year, our 10th, will be the biggest (Blue Star Salute) we’ve ever had.”