Elsberry, Mo. - High winds kicked up the dusty ground as dark clouds encircled the 1,600 acres of Double Eagle Ranch on a Tuesday afternoon.

However, the 200-plus local veterans who attended the ranch’s third-annual Veterans Appreciation Day on Sept. 14 watched those storm clouds move southeast – and enjoyed a pleasant day of food, camaraderie – and horses.

“(Having the veterans at the ranch) is great. I missed them last year,” said Double Eagle Ranch owner Ed Potter, who is holding the event after postponing it in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “They’re great people.

“This is really easy for me do, so we did it.”

The visitors enjoyed a luncheon and a tour of the expansive property, which contains a large lake local veterans regularly fish from.

At the beginning of the luncheon, Potter was presented with a plaque from Dean Tapley of Elsberry VFW Post 9064. 

Potter said he doesn’t do this for plaques or awards. His son is a former United States Marine, and the idea to hold the event came from a meeting he had with a veteran at the ranch. 

Potter was invited to come to Lincoln County Veterans Coffee Talk in Troy, and it was through that meeting that he wanted to do something for veterans.

“Many of them served in Vietnam – and they were treated like crap when they came home,” Potter said. “I would do anything for these men and women who were there.”

Potter also said he saw first-hand the outpouring of support for Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, the Wentzville native who was one of 13 United States Marines killed in a suicide bombing attack at Kabul Airport in Afghanistan on Aug. 26, and honors every veteran he sees.

“I was driving home down (Interstate 70) to see everyone on the overpass to see Jared Schmitz,” Potter said. “They didn’t know this kid, but they were honoring him for his service.

“That’s why I do this. I want to personally say ‘thank you’ to (veterans) for their service.”

Potter said the award is nice, but he can’t take full credit for putting the event together. Double Eagle Ranch uses only local employees, including Elsberry High School students, who worked the Veterans Appreciation Day event.

“I want to thank all the staff here,” he said. “The people work so hard, and make it so easy to do this. Plus they enjoy doing this.

“It makes the place important for the community.”