Sons of the Flag, a Dallas-based organization that supports military, first responder, and civilian burn survivors through funding for innovative research, treatment and education, held its fourth annual Stars & Stripes Luncheon presented by Clay Cooley Auto Group on Friday, November 10, 2017, at Dallas Country Club. This year's luncheon was sold out and had record attendance of nearly 400.
Along with the luncheon, Sons of the Flag also hosted its annual Stars & Stripes Film Festival, presented by Stripe-A-Zone, from November 9 to 12 at Highland Park Village Theatre. The Film Festival featured five military-themed movies, each of which was followed by a discussion led by an expert on the particular movie's content or historical background.
"The Stars & Stripes Luncheon and Film Festival is the most important and impactful event each year for Sons of the Flag, and this year proved that more people than ever are interested in coming alongside us as we work to advance burn treatment, education and funding for military and first-responder burn survivors," said Ryan "Birdman" Parrott, former Navy SEAL and founder of Sons of the Flag. "We are so thankful for all of the sponsors and attendees who helped make this another year of continued growth in support of this vital mission."
Kris "Tanto" Paronto, who as a member of the CIA annex security team that responded to the terrorist attack on the US Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya on September 11th, 2012 helped save more than 20 lives, kicked off this year's events on November 9 with a discussion following the screening of "13 Hours." Along with Dallas Film Society Artistic Director James Faust, Paronto provided insider details for nearly 100 VIP supporters about how the movie accurately portrayed the Benghazi attack, which was captured so vividly onscreen by director Michael Bay.
On Friday, November 10, the luncheon festivities began with a VIP reception in the Dallas Country Club's Founders Room, at which attendees got to meet "Tanto" Paronto in person and have their picture taken with this American hero. Luncheon co-chairs Billie Leigh Rippey, Paige Rippey Locke and Tricia Rippey Besing were among the many VIP reception attendees, as were luncheon presenting sponsor Lisa and Ciara Cooley of Clay Cooley Auto Group, and film festival presenting sponsor the Sargent Family of Stripe-A-Zone.
VIP Reception attendees then hustled to the Dallas Country Club's main ballroom, where luncheon emcee, former Channel 8 anchor Shelly Slater, began the proceedings. Kenzie Coppin led the attendees in a stirring rendition of the national anthem, followed by the opening invocation, given by former US Navy SEAL Jon Iadonisi. Slater then thanked all the veterans in attendance, recognized the luncheon chairs and sponsors, and mentioned the film festival opening.
As the audience finished lunch, Dr. Stephen Burgher, the recipient of last year's Legacy Award from Sons of the Flag, introduced a short video presentation about this year's Legacy Award Winner, Major Richard Agnew, an Army paratrooper during the Korean War and a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross.
Parrott then rose to present the organization's new promotional video and make a stirring call to support their lifesaving and life-changing work. "Your support will help us train more doctors and nurses to deliver the specialized care burn victims need. Your support will help us embrace rather than turn away somebody who doesn't have the means to buy the products they need for proper wound care post burn. Your support will help heal a brave veteran who, in addition to other injuries, must go through continual treatment and surgery for burns suffered in combat. And your support will help a firefighter who was burned while saving your home or place of business. Without your support none of these things is possible, and we ask for it today."
Kris Paronto then regaled the audience with a near "shot-by-shot" account of the 13 hours he and five other brave security team members spent protecting more than 20 government employees as hundreds of attackers moved in on the State Department and CIA Annex facilities. "We came from different military backgrounds, but our training led us in a common mission to protect those whose lives depended on our efforts," said Paronto.
After Paronto concluded his remarks, Shelly Slater brought the luncheon to a close by thanking the audience and encouraging them to go thank a veteran in celebration of Veteran's Day the next day.
Sons of the Flag is a nonprofit organization committed to supporting military, first responder, and civilian burn survivors by providing funding for innovative research, technology and education. They bring together passionate community leaders, pioneering physicians, experienced military service members, dedicated first responders and purposeful civilians to complete their mission. Learn more about the organization and follow its news and upcoming events on Twitter @sonsoftheflag and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SonsOfTheFlag.