By Tia Lynn Ivey
Local veterans and their families gathered at Morgan County High School (MCHS) last Friday on Veterans Day to be celebrated by the local community for their bravery, sacrifice and unyielding patriotism. About 2,000 people turned out for the event, which featured patriotic songs performed by the MCHS Chorus and Band, and a special guest speaker, Lt. General Steve Whitcomb, who served in the United States Army for 40 years.
“An amazing thing happens everyday, and that is that Americans wake up free,” began Whitcomb. “It is not by chance or by accident or even by a declaration. It’s because for 241 years, young men and women have gone forth to defend our nation… Veterans Day ceremonies are a chance to stop for a few minutes and to remember those veterans and their sacrifices.”
The MCHS gymnasium was packed with about 2000 attendees at Friday’s ceremony. Over 100 veterans showed up with their families. Students from the high school, middle school, elementary school and primary school listened intently as speakers explained the vital role veterans play securing American freedom they enjoy each and everyday.
“As a veteran myself, I know firsthand that our veterans mean a lot to our country and that a lot of men and women have died for our country, so we could have the freedoms we have today. We, a lot of times, take these things for granted, so it’s important that we take the time to remember our veterans and what they have done for us,” explained Jim NeSmith, commander of Post 37 of the American Legion. NeSmith helps organize the Veterans Day ceremony each other with the Morgan County School System.
“We want to do it right and show our appreciation for our local veterans,” said NeSmith. “And just like the years before this one, it was a great event.”
According to NeSmith, the Veterans Day ceremony has been held at the high school for about seven years. Before then, it was held in front of the courthouse, but the school system wanted to take an active role in hosting the event, seizing it as an opportunity to educate students about military service in addition to showing their gratitude to our local veterans.
“Madison does it right,” said Whitcomb of the annual Veterans Day ceremony.
Whitcomb also encouraged the crowd to not only honor the service and sacrifices of veterans, but the sacrifices of their families.
“They make sacrifices, too. The spouses and children give up a lot while veterans are away serving this country,” said Whitcomb. Whitcomb described the special occasions and family emergency veterans often miss while on active duty. “They deal with broken bones, broken cars, and broken promises,” said Whitcomb. “We end up missing birthday and holidays and all kinds of special moments. It is important to remember veterans’ families and the daily sacrifices they make, too.”
This Veterans Day was especially poignant in light of the recent Presidential Election, which has been one of the most contentious and dividing campaigns in recent history.
“And yet, even with this national election, we still are having a peaceful transition of power. That certainly does not happen everywhere in the world.”
Whitcomb was moved by the young students who attended the ceremony, knowing that it is their futures for which veterans fight to secure.
“Their attentiveness and politeness and obvious respect for all the veterans was incredible to see. We had a good community turnout. It’s just part of the importance that we don’t forget that this stuff isn’t free,” said Whitcomb.