The men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our freedom were honored in a special Veterans Day program Monday morning at the DeKalb County Complex auditorium.
The observance featured performances of patriotic music by members of the DeKalb County High School Chorus and Band, a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, a poem in tribute to veterans read by Susan Hinton, and a keynote address by Sarah Tinch, a Veterans Benefit Representative.
(PLAY VIDEO BELOW OF VETERAN'S DAY PROGRAM)
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The program was made more special with a group of veterans from World War II to the more recent wars who were seated on stage.
"It is a privilege to be with you to celebrate Veterans Day and it is an honor to be among the 21 million veterans alive today," said Tinch in her remarks during the program.
(PLAY VIDEO OF DCHS CHORUS AND BAND BELOW)
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"Today, we come together to remember, honor and pay tribute to our heroes – ordinary men and women who set aside their own personal freedom to defend and protect our nation from those who would threaten our way of life. They left the comfort of their homes and families for hostile lands far away to fight on foreign soil, so that we would never have to fight on our own soil – lands such as Iwo Jima, Seoul, Khe Sanh, and Fallujah. Ordinary men and women who did extraordinary things," she said.
Tinch then asked the WWII veterans in attendance to stand and be recognized. Edward Frazier, Edsel Frazier, Guy Mathis, Doyle Smith, and Doyle Taylor, who all served in World War II, rose to their feet.
"December 7th marks 72 years since America was brought into World War II with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. These veterans are among more than 16,000,000 U.S. service members who fought on nearly every continent on earth to deliver the world from tyranny. It was the bloodiest war in our history, with more than 291,000 American casualties in battle, and more than 50,000,000 million people dying worldwide. When they returned home, these service members laid down their arms and went to work building the most prosperous nation we had ever known – earning them the title of America’s Greatest Generation." said Tinch.
She then recognized veterans of the Korean Conflict. "This year marks the 60th anniversary of the cease fire agreement that ended the three year war. These veterans were among the 5,720,000 service members who served in the effort to prevent the spread of communism throughout Korea. During the Korean War, 33,686 American troops died to defend democracy for the Korean people. Since that time, the people living in North Korea, where communism flourished, have lived the past 60 years under a totalitarian regime in a land that is unable to feed its own people, and they live year after year in perpetual famine. Because of these veterans’ success in saving South Korea, they spared the more than 49,000,000 people living there from that same awful fate," said Tinch.
Korean Conflict Veterans in attendance were Joe Payne, Walter Phillips, Corbin Keith, James Cantrell, Tom Lassiter, Al Evans, Tommy Webb, Walter Johnson, and Paul Cantrell.
In her remarks, Tinch also paid tribute to Vietnam War veterans."These veterans were among the 8,744,000 Americans who served during the Vietnam era. Between 1964 and 1975, 1,789,000 service men and women were deployed to prevent the spread of communism into South Vietnam. These brave men went when their country called them to service. They did not flee the country or hide inside our educational institutions to avoid the draft. More than 35,000 died in theater defending democracy. Had they received the support from our government and the American people in their fight to win the war, the outcome for the South Vietnamese people, for our service members while in Vietnam and when they returned home, and for American history, would have been vastly different. The lessons we should always remember from that time are that we should never turn our backs on our men and women in the military, we must give them everything they need to be successful, and if we send them to war, we send them in to win. I personally want to say “WELCOME HOME”, Thank You For Your Sacrifice, and We Will Never Forget," said Tinch
Vietnam era veterans at Monday's observance were Charles Owens, Corbin Keith, Charles Cantrell, Kenneth Beshearse, William Edmonds, Jerry Hinton, George Oliver, Charlie Banks, David Petty, Corbin Keith, Rick Lee, Charles Parsley, Ronnie Redmon, Bill Fowler, Carlton Miller, Harold Blackwell, and Jerry Adcock.
Gulf War Operations Desert Storm and Desert Storm veterans were also honored. "Operation Desert Shield was a war against Iraq for their invasion of neighboring country Kuwait. Operation Desert Storm was to prevent the use of chemical and biological weapons use by Iraq. In the largest coalition of world nations since WWII, over 694,000 service men and women were deployed to the Gulf region between 1990 and 1991. 383 service members died during these operations. Their service and their sacrifice resulted in the liberation of Kuwait the prevention of chemical weapons use by Iraq on neighboring countries, followed by 10 years of sanctions on Iraq," said Tinch.
Jerry Adcock and Arlene Cookie Hullett, who both served in Desert Storm and Desert Shield, Toni Fruehauf who served in the United State Air Force Reserve, Jimmy Sprague of Operation Just Cause, and Boyd Bruce Malone who served in Grenada and Desert Storm were all in attendance for the Veterans Day program along with veterans Bill Burgess and Charles Lane.
"Veterans who served during the Global War on Terror which began in 2001includes Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn, among others," said Tinch. "This war is still ongoing. The Global War on Terror began as a result of the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on our country, and resulted in an international military campaign to focus on the elimination of al-Qaeda and other militant organizations from Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries where these terrorist organizations are harbored. Following threats by Saddam Hussein of more terrorist attacks on the U.S., The U.S. invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003. Saddam Hussein was captured on Dec 13, 2003 and executed on Dec 30, 2006 for his crimes. Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2011. To date, 1448 American service members have been killed, and 51,708 have been wounded in action in the Global War on Terror. The dictatorship in Iraq and the Taliban rule in Afghanistan have ended. The countries now hold elections and continue to progress in stabilizing their government and economies," she said.
"America, and many parts of the world, could not enjoy the blessings of freedom and liberty without the service of our men and women fulfilling an extraordinary duty. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things," said Tinch. "On Veterans Day, we remember and honor all those who wore the uniform. I am eternally grateful to our veterans for their service. I ask everyone to offer a sincere THANK YOU to a Veteran not only today, but every day. Your recognition of their service means more to most Veterans than any other reward," Tinch concluded.
Susan Hinton delivered a poem by an unknown author called "Veterans In Your Honor".
Unselfishly, you left your fathers and your mothers,
You left behind your sisters and your brothers.
Leaving your beloved children and wives,
You put on hold, your dreams your lives.
On foreign soil, you found yourself planted
To fight for those whose freedom you granted.
Without your sacrifice, their cause would be lost
But you carried onward, no matter the cost.
Many horrors you had endured and seen.
Many faces had haunted your dreams.
You cheered as your enemies littered the ground;
You cried as your brothers fell all around.
When it was over, you all came back home,
Some were left with memories to face all alone;
Some found themselves in the company of friends
As their crosses cast shadows across the land.
Those who survived were forever scarred
Emotionally, physically, permanently marred.
Those who did not now sleep eternally
Neath the ground they had given their lives to keep free.
With a hand upon my heart, I feel
The pride and respect; my reverence is revealed
In the tears that now stream down my upturned face
As our flag waves above you, in her glory and grace.
Freedom was the gift that you unselfishly gave
Pain and death was the price that you ultimately paid.
Every day, I give my utmost admiration
To those who had fought to defend our nation.
At the conclusion of the program, veterans boarded a school bus for a ride downtown to the site of the veterans memorial monument where a wreath was laid to commemorate Veteran's Day. Sheriff Patrick Ray led the motorcade followed by DeKalb EMS, the bus carrying the veterans, the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department, and the Smithville Police Department.
As the wreath was laid, Judy Redmon read names of veterans who have passed away within the last year as a way to help remember them.
Emma Rigsby then played Taps to bring the day's program to a close.
Veterans then boarded the bus again and were taken back to the county complex for a delicious Veteran's Day meal served by Senior Citizens and members of Leadership DeKalb and the local chapter of Woodmen of the World.