Local couple plans inaugural Vet-Fest

Oct 28, 2013
Photo by: Anne Baker Della Cope stands in front of a display of historical and present-day uniforms in Jarhead's Military Surplus, which is owned and operated by Della and her husband, David. Behind the uniforms is an American Flag that flew over the smokestack of Champion Paper and Fiber in Canton. The flag was given to Della by her brother.

The first thing Della Cope sees when she unlocks the door and walks into Jarhead’s Military Surplus is a display of uniforms that dates from World War I to the present day. It’s testament to the generations of men and women who have served the country, but it is personal, as well. Two of the uniforms belong to Della’s husband, David, and her father-in-law, Ray Cope, who was a Navy seaman first class during WWII.

“How a person cannot be humbled by this is unfathomable to me,” Della said.

The couple comes from families with a military background; David himself served as sergeant in the Airborne Infantry Recondos of the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army. His three brothers, J. R., Phillip and Terry also served during the Vietnam era, and David also has seven uncles that served since WWII. Della’s father served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War era while her brother, Timothy Beasley, retired from the U.S. Navy. Currently, the Copes' son, Sgt. William Harold Turner IV and his wife, Pfc. Brielle Turner, are serving in U.S. Marine Corps.

David and Della own and operate Jarhead’s Military Surplus, located in Haywood Square — and while they love the retail atmosphere and searching for government surplus items to bring to the shop, their real passion lies in helping veterans.

“There’s camaraderie among veterans,” Della said. “It doesn’t matter how old or young you are — it’s all the same.”

The couple will turn their passion into a reality through the inaugural Vet-Fest, which will be held from 3 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9 at Haywood Square in Waynesville. David and Della are the minds behind the event, which will honor not only veterans, but wounded warriors, active duty military, the reserves and the National Guard. The idea of Vet-Fest, which is billed as the largest festival in Western North Carolina for veterans, is already making waves with the community.

“We knew we’d have a good response, but we didn’t think the response would be so great. It’s phenomenal,” Della said.

Community businesses like Cornerstone Printing and Design, who donated the flyers seen around town for the event, are helping the Copes, and three bands — Brian Keith and the Mile High Band, Smoke Rise and Fried Pie Experience — have donated their time. The Patriot Guard Riders will also be present for festivities.

For those who want to kick off the day earlier than 3 p.m., a bike and car poker run will begin at noon, with registration opening at 10 a.m. at Jarhead’s. Entry fees are $20 per driver and $15 per rider. After stops in Maggie Valley, Cherokee and Waynesville, the run will return to Jarhead’s at 3 p.m., just in time for Vet-Fest.

Attendees can then enjoy seven hours of music, food, raffles, drawings, door prizes and what Della called the highlight of the festival: the honoring of William David Halyburton Jr., Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class, U.S. Naval Reserve, and Max Thompson, a sergeant in the U.S. Army, Company K, 18th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division. Both men are two Congressional Medal of Honor recipients from Haywood County.

Admission is free, and any proceeds from the festival and the poker run will go to the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), which serves veterans and service members who suffered a physical or mental injury, illness or wound co-incident to their military service on or after Sept. 11, 2001. (The WWP also serves family members.) With the vision of fostering a well-adjusted generation of wounded service members, the WWP exists to help injured service members aid and assist each other and raise awareness of the needs of injured service members.

Those who aren’t able to attend the festival can directly donate online at www.woundedwarriorproject.org//jarheads.

Individuals can also stop by David and Della’s store to hear more about the festival and donate to the Wounded Warrior Project, or visitors can simply check out Jarhead’s wide variety of boots, hunting, camping and hiking gear and collectibles. The couple brings in new items every week to the store, which has only been open for a little over 13 weeks but has already had to expand and double in size.

“David and I are supposed to be here,” Della said. “God has blessed us to be able to do what we’ve done in 13 weeks.”

Jarhead’s Military Surplus is located at 292 N. Haywood St. in Waynesville. The Copes can also be reached at 734-5795.

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