Members of the Gadsden Elks Lodge 1314 thanked local veterans for their service Saturday by serving them -- a home-cooked lunch and a time of fellowship.

Lodge member Anne Sharpe said local veterans were invited to the annual luncheon at the lodge (decorated in red, white, and blue) as a small way of showing appreciation.

Exalted Ruler Pat Sherman welcomed veterans, and gave out door prizes, many of which were donated by local businesses.

It's something the Gadsden Lodge has been doing, Marge McGuire said, as long as she's been a member -- at least 23 years.

Veterans in attendance said it was a nice way for their service to be remembered, and some remembered what that time in their lives meant to them.

"It taught me to be a man," Army veterans Phillip Fleming said. He served in from 1968-1970, spending time in country in Vietnam.

Fleming was up for the draft, he said, so he enlisted. He was 18 years old.

Most of the people he served with are dead and gone now, Fleming said.

He's proud, he said, of the time he spent serving his country.

Richard Nail served in the Army also, stationed in Germany from 1961 to 1964.

He said he's very proud to have served his country, and in "a round-about way" he knows he's played a role in keeping the nation free.

Nail said that service taught him lessons he couldn't have learned in the same way otherwise. It taught him "how to deal with life," he said, and to work with others.

Air Force veteran Melvin Barnes served from 1960 to 1965, much of that time at Eglin Air Force base.

Charlie Walker served in the Navy, entering service in 1942, spending time in California.

Other veterans attending the luncheon included Coleman Rogers, who served in the Army in the 1950s. He said he was stationed in Germany.

Dennis Nunnelly retired from the U.S. Navy.

Chaplain Anne Cummings led prayer before the meal, offering thanks for all veterans who served "the greatest country in the world."

Joe Gordon of Gadsden told those gathered her words were true.

"I lived in Eastern Europe for six years," he said. "It'll make you thankful for the U.S."