Whereas Memorial Day is primarily a holiday to remember those veterans that have laid down their lives for this country, Veterans Day emphasizes honor and gratitude to living veterans for their service and contributions, to the men and women who have sacrificed and done their duty.
The ceremony at the Ray County Courthouse on Tuesday began “on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month” in commemoration of what was first known as Armistice Day, when the armistice was signed in 1918 as “the war to end all wars” was over.
Don Louks of American Legion Post 237 led the ceremony. The flag-raising was performed by veterans representing American Legion Post #237 and VFW Post #4398. Fifth graders from Sunrise Elementary were present and several of them came to the courthouse steps to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. The National Anthem was sung by Jan Crook.
The fifth graders sang “This is America,” adding their youthful voices to the setting. As they sang several hand-written and colored signs were held up, saying simply “Thank you, Veterans.”
VFW Post #4398 Commander Larry Brune spoke to the crowd. Rep. Bob Nance followed. He reminded those gathered “to remember what is worth fighting for,” and that “the nation which forgets its defenders is soon forgotten.” In his closing message, he said, “Freedom is a most prized item on earth.”
Veterans Henry Rauber (Army – Korea), A.J. Phipps (Korea – Seabees), and Everett Ishmael (Army – Korea) placed three wreaths at the base of the veterans’ monuments on the courthouse lawn.
The Richmond High School Band was present and played the John Philips Sousa march, “Semper Fidelis.” Gus Hockemeier of the RHS Band played “Taps” on the trumpet.
Richmond Middle School held a Veterans Day Assembly on Monday. Many veterans attended, enjoyed special power point presentations, and the reading of essays from the Patriot’s Pen Contest. A highlight of the program was when Trystan Bever-Johnson read her essay, with her father there beside her to hear it. Staff Sergeant Ryan Bever had just returned from Kosovo two days prior.
Other students read passages from a proclamation signed by President Bush and presented the history of Veterans Day. RMS eighth grade trumpet player Ben Bryant presented a beautiful rendition of “Taps.”
Several veterans commented on how much they enjoyed the program. A.J. Phipps, (Korea, Seabees) was quite touched by how much had gone into the preparations, but especially by the respect shown by the entire student body throughout the hour-long program. “It’s the best Veterans Day program I’ve ever seen,” he said.
Photo: A.J. Phipps reflects after laying the wreath at the foot of the WWII Veterans Memorial on the lawns of the Ray County Courthouse. As RHS band member Gus Hockemeier played the solemn melody of “Taps” on the trumpet, Phipps joined with others gathered for the Veterans Day Ceremony to pay tribute to veterans, on recognition of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the Armistice. (Photo by Brenda Jensen/The Daily News)