A salute to those who served

Ann Gill

    Observed at the 11th hour, on the 11th day or the 11th month, Veterans Day is set aside to acknowledge the men and women of the United States armed services for their honor, courage, sacrifice and dedication to the country they call home.
    This year’s ceremony, the 10th presented by the Coal City Public Library District, was held on the 100th anniversary of the Armistice of 11 November 1918.
    The annual celebration of military personnel began as Armistice Day in 1919, and although the meaning of the day remained the same the holiday was renamed Veterans Day by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954.
    Unit 1 School Superintendent Dr. Kent Bugg, who spoke at the Sunday morning ceremony, made it clear that while the facts of how the day came to be are important, Veterans Day is about much more than dates and designations.
    “It’s about people, it’s about teaching our students that we owe our nation’s veterans a debt that they must work diligently to repay,” Bugg said.
    The superintendent delivered his message to about 200 local residents, many of them veterans, who gathered for the ceremony in the Coal City Performing Arts Center at Coal City High School.
    “Our school district is honored to host this prestigious event and we are very thankful for the relationship our veterans have allowed our school district kids to have with them,” Bugg said.
    Local veterans are active in the schools with presentations at all grade levels. The Community Veterans Monument is located on the campus of Coal City Intermediate School, and like the annual Veterans Day celebration the school district  provides a location for the Memorial Day commemoration each May.     
    “Our relationship with our veterans is not only a source of pride and honor for our school district, but it’s a valuable lesson and learning avenue for our students,” Bugg said.
    The educator said the best way students can honor the nation’s military veterans is by taking full advantage of all the freedoms these individuals so ardently defended.
    “We need to teach them why it is so important for them to vote, because our veterans gave us that privilege, they need to learn to stand up for what is right and speak out on injustice, because our veterans gave us that privilege,” Bugg said in his remarks.
    The ceremony also included remarks from State Representative David Welter and Representative Lindsay Parkhurst, Barb Rossi with the Daughters of the American Revolution, Commander John Gubbins of American Legion Post 796 and Charles Brown, commander of St. Juvin Post 1336 Veterans of Foreign Wars.
    Organized by Kathy Brown, who works in the library’s adult services division, the program included a small history lesson on the various uniforms worn by World War II soldiers made possible through the efforts of Coal City Police patrol officer  Kevin Jones and the WWII Historical Reenactment Society. Musical numbers were presented by the Coal City High School Footnotes and vocalist Sharon Hawkinson.
    As he does at the Veterans and Memorial Day ceremonies, VFW member Jack Micetich read the names of community members who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country, noting the recent passing of PFC Alexander Armstrong.
    Coal City Mayor Terry Halliday addressed those in attendance by paying special tribute to Micetich who has been selected by the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and the Illinois Bicentennial Office as a recipient of HONOR200, a program that serves to recognize the ongoing contributions of 200 of the state’s military veterans.
    Halliday, like many in attendance, set aside time on Nov. 11 to recognize the service of the nation’s military. The mayor noted that far too often the heroism demonstrated by these men and women goes unnoticed by those who enjoy the security provided by veterans.
    “The debt to these heroes can never be repaid, but our gratitude and respect must last forever,” Halliday said.