Veterans Day might be a once-a-year declared and celebrated federal holiday, but its importance in honoring all veterans whether or not they have served in combat or not should not and CAN NOT be forgotten by the American people. For to become indifferent to the sacrifices of those who have given us the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness by taking up the nation's cause in its time of need would signify that the American people have chosen to believe that there is no cost connected with the preservation of liberty and our nation.
As in years past it was a must attend event for me, even knowing beforehand that the Sequence of Events would remain unaltered from years past, except for some name changes in those carrying out the scheduled events.
It was on a rather cool and cloudy morning that I bundled up and walked the several blocks from my Lake Bluff home to celebrate Lake Bluff's Veterans Day 2011.
I was somewhat disappointed in the number of Lake Bluff citizens who availed themselves to the memorable occasion.
Hopefully the less than usual attendance might have been due to the morning's rather nippy temperature.
Swelling the attendance were students from Lake Bluff's Middle School who walked the short distance to the Village Green accompanied by their teachers. I applaud Lake Bluff District 65 for understanding the importance of exposing young people first-hand to a lesson in history, at an age when so many young people are consumed with thoughts about themselves and how others perceive them.
Noticeable, however, was that the number of proud-looking veterans in attendance for whom the occasion was all about seemed sparser than in 2010. Perhaps this could also be explained away due to the weather. As least I hope so.
The Lake Forest High School Band deserves special mention for its performance at Veterans Day 2011. Being a clarinet player myself, how well I remember the problems faced by brass and wind players when performing out-of-door with temperatures that cause hands and instruments to freeze up. Brian O'Conner, assistant band director at LFHS, led the Lake Forest High School Band, replacing Jenine Kessler who is on medical leave.
The ceremony opened with a welcome from David Cimarrusti, Commander of Post 510, at which time he graciously thanked the many individuals who had helped organize the event.
Henrietta Pigg, president of the Lake Bluff Women's Club, whose husband Edgar Pigg is a member of Post 510, led the "Pledge of Allegiance." Mr. Pigg, a WW II veteran, served in the Navy and was stationed in the Philippines and Shanghai, China. Edwin was one of the lucky ones who got his wish to serve in the Navy when drafted at age18. He went through training at Great Lakes Naval Base.
The Lake Bluff Women's Club is a big supporter of veterans and holds several event each year for their enjoyment. Post 510, in turn, lends its support to the work of the Club.
Sally Lape of LFHS, accompanied by the Lake Forest High School Band, was this years soloist, nor did she disappoint with her renditions of the "National Anthem" and "American the Beautiful."
The Flag Raising by Lake Bluff Scout Troop 41, Mike Fried, Leader, seemed to go off without a hitch, at least I was able to observe how "Old Glory" rose to the top of the flag pole to flutter in the breeze.
Selected to read the Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" was Wyatt Verlen, Student Council President of the Lake Bluff Middle School.
As in past years the "Salute to Fallen Comrades" was performed by the Marine Air Control Group 48 Firing Detail with NCOIC SSgt. Michael L. Albers, USMC, resplendent in their dashing uniforms. Unfortunately one of the members of the Firing Detail Group, while standing at attention, fainted and had to be led away before the rendering of the "Salute to Fallen Comrades", which went off flawlessly minus one.
The Necrology was read by State Senator Susan Garrett, D-29th District and State Representative Karen May, D-58th District. This will be the final year that both of them will be taking part in Lake Bluff's Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Veterans Day celebrations. Both are retiring at the end of their present terms. As noted in the Necrology, Lake Bluffers answered the call to service: 4 died in the Civil War; 2 in WWI; 5 in WWII; 1 in Korean War; and 3 in Vietnam.
Both the Invocation and the Benediction was given by Syler Thomas, High School Pastor of Christ Church in Lake Forest.
To me the most meaningful part of the ceremony were the remarks made by Guest Speaker Colonel Todd Garlick, U.S. Army (also last year's Guest Speaker), that were to linger in my mind in the days following Lake Bluff's Veterans Day Ceremony and now as I write my reflections.
Prior, however, to Colonel Garlick's remarks which so struck a nerve with me, Garlick acknowledged the 236th birthday of the U.S. Marines celebrated the day before on Nov. 10th. These remarks led into a brief presented of the history of Veterans Day, established initially as Armistice Day in 1919 through the Treaty of Versailles marking the end of WW I.
It was on May 13,1938 that a Congressional Act was passed which designated November 11th the legal Federal date for observing Armistice Day, A much needed change took place in 1954 when the 1938 act was amended by the 83rd U.S. Congress under the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower. The word "Armistice" was struck out in in favor of "Veterans." Since then November 11th has become the day to honor American veterans of all wars, and not just the Great War (World I).
In an extension of his mini-history lesson, Colonel Garlick told how Britain, France, Australia and Canada also commemorate the veterans of World Wars I and II on or near November 11th. Continuing, Garlick related how the wearing of artificial poppies in this nation dates back to and is symbolic of World War I. Red poppies symbolize all the blood spilled at Flanders Field as was depicted so well in the poem, "In Flanders Fields", by John McCrae. Missed this year was the presentation of this beautiful poem read by Lake Bluff resident Esther Fetherolf in past years.
Colonel Garlick's reflections next centered on the last WW I Doughboy, Frank Buckles, who died this year at 109. In 1917 Frank Buckles, all age16, fudged his age, enlisted in the U.S. Army, and was sent to France where he fulfilled his wish to become part of the "Great War." As an activist late in life, Buckles lobbied in 2009 for the construction of a WW I memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C. to honor the 4.7 million Americans who served during WW I. http://www.parade.com/news/2010/05/30-the-last-doughboys-final-figh...
Most fitting were Colonel Garlick's remarks following his story of WWI Doughboy Frank Buckles. It was at this point in the ceremony when Garlick's reflections, in acknowledging that these were different times from those who had lived during the era of WW II, meshed with my own thoughts and experiences as having grown up in a different age during WW II.
Seniors like me are still around who remember air raid drills where total darkness was required; News of the Week reels in movie theater (before TV!); stamps for food and gas rationing; going out in fields with my dad to collect milk weed pods to bring back to my elementary classroom to use for the war effort; no chocolate available for Easter treats; the push to buy war bonds, etc. In terms of years, it won't be too much longer before newer generations will take over for those of us who are in our sunset years. Then what?
Might the lack of identification with those serving today account for the decrease in patriotism and indifference to honoring our fallen heroes and all veterans who have served in war and in peace time? After all, WW II seems far in the distant past for many of the younger generation.
According to the Veterans Association, WW II veterans are passing on at the rate of over 1,045 a day; Korean War vets at 305 a day; and Vietnam vets at 200 a day. This is huge combined number!
Colonel Garlick cited how one out of every 10 Americans knew someone who was serving in WW II. Today, less than one out of 100 Americans know someone who is serving their nation in uniform.
Winston Churchill perhaps best summed up what his countrymen owed those who served when he made this much quoted Tribute to the Royal Air Force in front of the House of Commons on August 20, 1940: http://www.winstonchurchill.org/learn/speeches/quotations
"The gratitude of every home in our island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. "
This nation will always face those who wish to destroy us and all this country stands for. Our current enemy is not a nation, but Islamic jihadists who are waging war all over the globe to install a world-wide caliphate under Islamic rule. This might sound far-fetched to those who believe what they are being instructed to believe, that Islam is a peaceful religion and that Islamic law is compatible with the laws which govern this nation.
Andrew C McCarthy in what was a national bestseller, "The Grand Jihad", exposes government's active concealment of the Islamist ideology that unabashedly vows to "conquer America.
9/11 might only have been a preview of what Islamic jihadists have in store this nation if and when they succeed. And it will only be a matter of time before Islamic terrorists do manage to strike once again at the beating heart of this nation, whether they be home-grown domestic terrorists or the planning of Islamist jihidists living abroad.
Pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan might sound good, but doing so prematurely will possible mean the need for more blood to be shed in the future.
As Mark Steyn states about his New York Times bestseller, "American Alone: the End of the World as We Know it", What will a world without American leadership look like? It won't be pretty -- not for you and not for your children."
Few Americans realize that the jihadists of today have Nazi connections that can trace their literal historical origins to Nazism and its genocidal ambitions. Hitler's Germany may have been defeated in WW II, but not its ideology. It lingers on in the philosophy of leaders of Islamic countries such as Iran.
Enough of those who say this nation is expected to act more civilized in the way it fights wars so we don't degrade ourselves to the level of those who are waging war against us. Water boarding has been declared off limits as torture when terrorists impose hideous acts like be-headings on those they capture.
My biggest concern is that political correctness has taken over this nation's instinct for survival. Yes, we did win WW II, but what about the wars that followed? Shouldn't winning wars in which we are committed be the goal of this nation?
This nation no longer seems willing (even though it is able) to do what is required to win wars. This does not bode will for the survival of our sovereign nation.
For unless we are willing to fight with conviction and fortitute to eliminate the threat, instead of merely nibbling around the edges, there will be no chance to fight back, for the terrorists will have won, having killed and destroyed us first.