Veterans Day events include commemoration, parade

Soldiers expressed their feelings on the most infamous days in American history.
Veteran Fredrick M. Wilson holds back tears while reading a letter from a soldier who is now deceased to those attending the Veterans Day Ceremony on Thursday at the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital. During the ceremony, students from Jefferson Junior High School and Rock Bridge High School were awarded for essays they wrote about the meaning of Veterans Day.

A Veterans Day breakfast, parade and commemoration honored those who have served or are serving in the military Thursday.

Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital hosted the commemoration, which featured keynote speaker Lt. Cpl. Michael Wilson and an essay contest award ceremony.

“Instead of a day off, we all need to understand the significance and sacrifices of those who have served in uniform,” Wilson said. “In times of war and in times of peace, men and women throughout the country leave their families and stand ready to defend freedom.”

Before the ceremony, a pancake breakfast was held for veterans at Columbia’s Veterans of Foreign Wars post. After the ceremony, a parade moved through the city to the Boone County courthouse in downtown Columbia where an honor guard held a flag ceremony for those in attendance.

The room was filled with a mixture of students, veterans and hospital employees who came to show support and remember those who had sacrificed their lives. Veterans in the crowd cheered out occasionally when speakers lent their support.

“The staff and myself here at the (hospital) believe every day is Veteran’s Day,“ Hospital Director Sallie Houser-Hanfelder said.

In his speech, Wilson told the audience there was no such thing as an uninjured veteran and the definition has possibly become blurred during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“(A veteran is) someone who loves their country, someone who makes a pact with his fellow soldier in arms, someone who’s willing to serve to give up their lives for others,” Wilson said.

Leo Blakley, a veteran who volunteered to serve in the Navy during World War II said his decision to serve is different than those who volunteer for the military today. He said when the 1941 attacks at Pearl Harbor occurred, the decision to do the right thing wasn’t as conflicted as today where he believes mistakes have been made by those in charge.

“You have to perceive that there is a problem,” Blakley said. “It’s just a matter of doing what you think is right.”

After the speech, two essay contest award ceremonies were held for junior high and senior high students. Isabelle Bouchard took first place in the junior high division and Courtney Engle earned first place in the senior high division.

In closing his speech, Wilson read the letter of a soldier from Illinois serving in Afghanistan. The soldier recognized the corruption and desperation permeating society but knew his service protected America from the horrors he saw overseas. The soldier expressed his desire to see his family at home but accepted the sacrifice he may be called to make. He was killed one week later.

“‘Remember that freedom is not free, we are all here because of sacrifices of those in uniform now and in the past,’” Wilson said.

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