he Annual American Veterans Tribute returns to Pea Hill Creek on Lake Gaston July 7. There will be plenty of live music, and later in the evening, fireworks will light up the sky.  

The day’s activities in Gasburg, Va., will start with a concert by Legends and Outlaws from 2-4 p.m., followed by Jerry Vassar and the American Veterans Tribute Band. Also performing will be Nashville recording artist Gordon Mote.  

There will be parachute jumpers, a military flyover, gigantic video screens showing military veteran tributes and fireworks beginning around 9 p.m. 

The stage for the entertainment will be set up facing Pea Hill Creek. The best way to see the entire program is from the water, but the fireworks can be seen from land as well. 

This year’s event will honor Col. Joe Wadle, Jr. of Richmond, Va. Wadle joined the Marine Corps in 1962 and served in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970. He also served at Headquarters Marine Corps before leaving active duty and going to work for Exxon in August 1972. Wadle served for 26 years in the Marine Corps reserve, retiring as a colonel in June 1998. 

He and his wife, Jackie, moved to Richmond, Va., in 2007. He has been active as a volunteer at McGuire VA Hospital and Sitter-Barfoot Veterans Care Center, the Virginia War Memorial, National Museum of the Marine Corps, Marine Corps League, commander of American Legion Post 215, Houston-Holicky-Sitter Veterans Luncheon Group Programs director and other Richmond area volunteer organizations.

“I am humbled to have been selected as the honoree for this year’s American Veterans Tribute. This event is about all veterans and their service to our country. I will be there representing all veterans who have served,” said Wadle. “Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces are the most valuable humans ever, and we owe a great debt of gratitude to them all. It will be an honor to attend and stand for everyone who has ever served our great nation.”

The American Veterans Tribute is a nonprofit organization focused on honoring veterans and is dedicated to working with veterans and their families who are dealing with the effects of post-traumatic stress. The group also works to educate employers on hiring veterans. 

The event on July 7 is one of the ways the organization honors and brings attention to the needs of American veterans.    

The American Veterans Tribute was started about 30 years ago on Lake Gaston by Ronald Vassar, who has a home on Pea Hill Creek.  

Vassar is president and CEO of General Assurance of America, Inc., headquartered in Richmond. The company gives a portion of its profits to help support the activities of the American Veterans Tribute. Vassar is also a veteran who served in the U.S. Army from 1964 to 1970.

“When I got out of the military, I knew I had to give back and show appreciation to those that have served and those that have been wounded or lost their lives in service to their country,” said Vassar. “So I started each July 4th just shooting a few fireworks off my dock at the lake with maybe 20 or 30 boats watching. As time went by, the event just grew, and here we are. It has grown into something I never could have imagined.”

There will be heavy traffic on the roads and boats on the water at Pea Hill Creek, and Vassar wants those who attend to have a safe and enjoyable time. Members of the Brunswick County (Va.) Sheriff’s Office, Central Rescue Squad and Gasburg Volunteer Fire Department will be on hand to help ensure that everything runs smoothly. 

“The water will be full of boats, and there will be a lot of traffic on the roads leading to the event.  It will be a busy area before, during and after the activities, and I encourage everyone to be safe, respectful and watch out for others,” Vassar said. “We want this to be a memorable event for everyone who attends.”

The American Veterans Tribute continues on July 8 at 10 a.m. with a program in the Virginia/North Carolina room at the Hilton Gardens Hotel in Roanoke Rapids. The program will include music by Gordon Mote, speakers and presentations made to this year’s honoree, Colonel Wadle.

The Hilton Garden Hotel is at 111 Carolina Crossroads Parkway in Roanoke Rapids, just off of exit 171 on Interstate 95. 

For more information or to make a donation, contact the American Veterans Tribute, PO Box 9469, Richmond, VA 23228, call 800-296-9641 or email a.vet.foundation@gmail.com