Monroe County honors those who served
November 11 is set aside to honor all veterans of all branches of the armed forces. On Sunday morning, a small crowd braved the cold to congregate outside of the Monroe County Justice Center in Sparta to pay their respects to all who have served at a ceremony held in honor of Veterans Day.
The annual ceremony is a joint effort of the Veterans of Foreign War Post 2112, the VFW Auxiliary, Sparta American Legion Post 100, the Legion Auxiliary and American Legion Post 438 of Norwalk.
Pastor William Clyma of the Congregational United Church of Christ provided a blessing on the ceremony. For the nation’s veterans, Clyma wanted to honor them for their faithful service to the country and for what they have done to defend and preserve freedom.
“Generation after generation, young men and women have answered our country’s call and as a result, their lives have been changed forever. We are grateful to all who have served, whether in peace time or in periods of conflict but today we especially remember those who have been tempered by fire, those who continue to bear wounds of the body or the spirit as a result of what they endured,” he said. “They lie in our veteran’s hospitals or struggle for recovery in rehabilitation centers. They suffer from posttraumatic stress and survivor’s guilt and they yearn for peace in their lives. May we never forget what our country has asked of them and what they have given in return.”
In 1954, after having been through both World Wars and the Korean War, at the urging of veterans organizations, the 83rd U.S. Congress changed Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day to honor American veterans of all war.
“Today is our birthday. A day to honor those who have served and those who still serve this great country. This day, above all, is an opportunity to celebrate the choice one makes to serve their country,” Brent Gilbertson, Commander of Veterans of Foreign War Post 2112 said. “For some, it meant the worldwide conflicts of World War I and World War II and for others a lifetime of peace, keeping missions, or the tense standoff of the Cold War. Others were called to Korea, Panama and the jungles of Vietnam. Today, for many, it means multiple tours to Iraq and Afghanistan on active duty or as a reservist or guard member who sacrifice twice when they give up their civilian jobs in order to serve our country.”
Gilbertson added that so many veterans like to stay in the shadows, asking for nothing. He urged them to take advantage of the programs available to them, as they deserve it.
“We are forever in debt to our veterans and are lucky to be in a town where we have such a high population of veterans,” Gilbertson said, asking the crowd to volunteer to help a veteran or service member.
Fawn Brickman, Commander of Sparta American Legion Post 100 told a story of a sheriff in Wisconsin who had served on the Wisconsin National Guards 32nd Military Police Company. During his service in 2003, he received a letter from a fourth grader in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin.
Earlier this year, while sorting through keepsakes, the sheriff came across the letter addressed to “Dear Soldiers,” which thanked them for all that they do for the country. It wasn’t until he looked at it again that he realized that he had previously overlooked what Brickman called a remarkable coincidence.
The sheriff posted the letter on the bulletin board at the station and when one of his young deputies saw the letter he was shocked. That deputy did not even remember writing the letter.
“Thanking our veterans may seem like a small gesture to some but it can have such a deeper meaning. To quote him, he said, ‘Finding the letter after all of these years and realizing the then fourth grader was now one of my deputies, seemed like a pretty neat coincidence. But our lives are full of coincidence. We need to realize what a positive impact it can have on the lives of others. My coincidence also illustrates how small our world really is and while instances like these make the world seem small, it is American veterans who make the world much safer,’” Brickman said. “From defeating communism, fascism and imperialism to liberating slaves, keeping the peace during the Cold War and battling terrorism today, veterans have accomplished remarkable things throughout our nation’s history. We owe it to them all to ensure that their service and sacrifice is always remembered.”
The VFW Posts throughout the nation sponsor annual contests for youth. Comrade Tracy Woodman the VFW Youth Chairman invited two entrants of the Patriot’s Pen Essay competition, Hallie Burton and Cody Morrow, to read from their essays, titled “Why I Honor the American Flag” at Sunday’s ceremony.
“I feel that vigilance, justice, innocence and purity are traits that describe most Americans. The American people may not have all of the traits that the flag’s colors stand for, but they have the most important parts,” Morrow said, “In the time that I have lived under the flag, I have questioned its purpose. I finally discovered it is the people who have served our country, even the ones who don’t wear a uniform, who we honor through the flag. You don’t have to carry a gun into war and you don’t have to be a local hero, patriotism isn’t found in the tall and muscular, it can be found in anyone.”