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Brushes with celebrity

A lot of us have had brushes with famous people, movie stars, celebrities or professional athletes.

I recall one occasion in 2010 when I was in the Minneapolis airport waiting for a flight to Anchorage, Alaska to visit my brother.

Waiting for someone at the gate was former St. John’s and NBA basketball star Chris Mullin, currently an analyst for ESPN.

Respecting his privacy, I didn’t approach him and ask for an autograph, but it still was a neat experience.

While working at King’s Dominion in the summer of 1975, I saw another NBA Hall of Famer, Elvin Hayes, enjoying the theme park with his family.

Perhaps my best one-on-one brush with celebrity occurred in 1986, while I was waiting tables at a Richmond restaurant.

I finished late and walked down the street to my favorite watering hole for a nightcap, when suddenly at 1:15 a.m. the door swung open and in walked the largest man I had ever seen, obviously of bodyguard proportions.

He took a seat near the door, and right behind him came comedian Sam Kinison, fresh off a gig at a Richmond comedy club and garbed in his trademark beret and overcoat.

Kinison, a former Pentecostal preacher, brought a “fire and brimstone” style to his stand-up comedy routines, which were often punctuated by a trademark scream.

He had just appeared in his first movie, alongside Rodney Dangerfield in “Back to School,” and he obviously was still in “stage mode” when he arrived at the Texas-Wisconsin Border Café that night.

Cracking jokes left and right, Kinison sat himself across the booth from me and ordered a round of Mooseheads for everyone.

Why I didn’t ask him to autograph anything is still a mystery to me, but I was probably laughing so hard along with Kinison I didn’t think of it.

Kinison later appeared on an episode of “Married with Children,” but sadly he is no longer with us, having been killed April 10, 1992 in an automobile accident near Las Vegas.

Fast forward to Friday at the Cove in Halifax County, and the American Hero Event sponsored by the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation.

A group of approximately 45 Armed Services veterans enjoyed a day of fishing, archery and skeet shooting courtesy of Ward Burton and a group of volunteers including his son, Jeb, and wife Tabitha.

Some who are lucky enough to have never been deployed but nevertheless serve their country with the same dedication and zeal as their combat brethren were on hand.

Also making the trek to the secluded cove were a group of combat veterans marked with the physical wounds of combat, including one young Marine who lost both legs during combat in Afghanistan.

Burton said it best. “They’re role models for us in the future, for the rest of their lives.  They’ve given more than most Americans can give, and some have given more. We’re just so proud of them, and it’s an honor to be in their presence.”

I agree whole-heartedly, and we should always remember the sacrifices of all veterans, past and present, men and women, who stand ready to put themselves in harm’s way, so we can live our everyday lives in peace and comfort.

They’re all celebrities and heroes in my mind.