Hoover’s Branson honored as 2020 Freedom Award winner

HOOVER – Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Ginger Branson was honored as the Hoover Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2020 Freedom Award recipient at a presentation held Thursday, July 16 at Aldridge Gardens and via Facebook Live.

Branson was lauded for her 28 years of military service as a nurse, including two years of active duty in the Gulf War in Operation Desert Storm, and for her ongoing post-military work to support other veterans and their families.

“She lives and breathes patriotism in everything she does,” retired U.S. Army Gen. Paul Pocopanni said of Branson. “There’s no one who works harder and longer to take care of and honor our veterans than Ginger Branson.”

Branson serves as the commander of American Legion Post 911 in Hoover and as the American Legion 21st District commander.

Branson also represents the American Legion on the Veterans Administration Voluntary Services Committee.

Also on Branson’s extensive list of community involvement that Pocopanni read during the award presentation were the following: Branson serves as local director of Wreaths Across America; she will be inducted into the Alabama Senior Citizens Hall of Fame in the near future; she was awarded the Positive Maturity Volunteer Spirit Award in 2019; she is a published author and parish nurse at Avondale UMC; she knits shawls with a group at Canterbury United Methodist Church; she has made hundreds of masks during the pandemic; and she is a member of the Support Committee for the Alabama National Cemetery.

Pocopanni described Branson as a hard worker and multitasker known for her steadfast volunteerism and love and devotion for veterans’ causes.

“The Hoover Freedom Award was designed for someone like Lt. Col. Ginger Branson to be honored and recognized for her selfless dedication to the community, to the state and to our nation,” Pocopanni said. “Her professionalism, both as a nurse and an army officer, and her steadfast desire to help our veterans, are unmatched.”

Branson said the most enjoyable time for her during the COVID-19 quarantine the last four months has been her daily phone calls with veterans.

“Every afternoon I choose one or two World War II or Korean War veterans, and I just call them,” she said. “I introduce myself, ask them if they need anything, how they’re doing, and then I just listen to them. Here’s the thing – like all of us, they can’t go anywhere, not even to church, which is for a lot of them their lifeline. But unlike most of us, if they contract COVID-19, they’re exponentially more likely to die from it. So, while for me sequestration has been an opportunity, for many solitude has brought about loneliness, and loneliness for months on end is agony and can lead to hopelessness and despair.”

Branson encouraged those who are able to go through their contact lists and check in with people who might be coping with isolation.

“I promise you there are people on there you haven’t talked to in a very, very long time,” she said. “Please call them and just tell them, ‘Hey I’m doing a buddy check, wondering how you’re doing and if you need anything.’ Listen to them, and then of course invite them to have a blessed day. Please do your part to help turn someone’s lonely day into a brighter one.”

The sponsor of this year’s Freedom Awards luncheon was Medical West, which will open a primary care facility in the Brock’s Gap community this fall, Medical West CEO Keith Pennington wrote in a statement shared during the award presentation.

“We’re thrilled to be able to offer this service to families in the Hoover area,” Pennington wrote. “Medical West is also excited to once again be a supporter of the Hoover Bucs. As we work through the reopening of schools and sports programs, we plan to work with Hoover High School to see how our funds can best be used to support their students.”

American Village Development Director Jeremy Ward served as speaker at the presentation and provided an overview of programs and activities offered at the American history and civics education center located in Montevallo.

“Our mission is to strengthen and renew the foundations of American liberty and constitutional self-government by engaging and inspiring citizens and leaders, especially with emphasis on programs for young people,” Ward said. “The American Village is committed to telling the incredible stories of America’s struggle for independence and examining how the lessons contained within those stories are still vitally relevant today in our roles as private citizens.”

Ward said the American Village’s primary goals are: To teach youth the vital lessons of liberty; to remember the price of liberty and honor those who have paid it; to promote public regard for the Constitution and America’s chartered freedom; to engage citizens and leaders in the stewardship of liberty; and to foster renewal of the American spirit of “E pluribus unum,” or “from many, one.”

Ward said work is underway on the first phase of a multi-phase project to bring a full-scale replica of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall to the American Village’s 188-acre campus.

During the venue’s closure amid the COVID-19 pandemic, staff are working to restructure many on-campus educational offerings in preparation for the 2020-2021 school year.

“We are currently planning for a very different school year,” Ward said. “We will continue to offer our engaging programs on campus. Those will be available for public, private, homeschools. We are working very diligently to offer many of our educational programs virtually and are producing several short, easily accessed videos in line with Alabama Course of Study for social studies to be offered at little to no cost.”

Every year, Freedom Award recipients are selected from nominees, each of whom are:

  • A role model in the community of Hoover, of good character and reputation;
  • Someone who has supported this country’s patriotic ideals over a period of time;
  • Must have given long-term services to these ideals, not just a one-time effort;
  • Must have supported the U.S. military through either support or service in the military;
  • Must be a Hoover resident, an employee of the city of Hoover, a Hoover Chamber member or an employee of a Hoover Chamber member.

“We want to support our country, our laws, and particularly the men and women that lay their lives down each and every day so that we would have these wonderful freedoms that we certainly enjoy,” Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato said. “I am grateful for those who did serve for us.”