Remembering our heroes would have been a good theme for the Veterans Day observance held Thursday morning at Elgin High School.
Persons of all ages attended the annual event. School children from Elgin Public Schools, Pope John Central Catholic and St. Boniface schools filled the bleachers on both sides of the gym floor. Seated on folding chairs on the gym floor were veterans, their spouses and other members of the community, gathered as one to honor the service to their country by men and women today and yesterday.
There were musical selections performed by the Elgin Public Band, Elgin Public and Pope John XXIII combined choirs as well as a special performance of “Thank You, Soldiers” by the Elgin Public and St. Boniface Elementary combined choir.
The Pledge of Allegiance was led by third grade students accompanied by members of the Junior Legion Auxiliary.
Boys and Girls State representatives A.J. Braband, Corey Schindler and Brieann Grosserode made brief remarks during the program and Jessica Heithoff welcomed all to the event.
The Veterans Day address was given by Staff Sergeant Dustin Hampton of the Army National Guard who has served in Iraq. Moved by the support shown earlier in the program, Hampton struggled early on with his prepared remarks then regrouped to make a powerful presentation.
Hampton said it’s difficult for people who have never served in the military to understand what being a soldier means. He said the men and women who protect the freedoms of this great country, the greatest country on the earth.
Hampton said the men and women who serve, do so for the country, not for a political party or a particular candidate.
“We serve the flag and the ideals it stands for,” Hampton said, noting that the freedoms all Americans have today were made possible to the actions of veterans. “It’s the soldiers who served, fought and died who gave you those rights,” he added.
To define the word ‘veteran,’ Hampton said it is someone who at one point in time, wrote a blank check to the United States. The characteristics of a veteran are loyalty, dignity, respect, honor, integrity, personal courage and service, he said.
The message was well-received, particularly by the veterans in the audience. Four World War II veterans were in attendance as well as others who served in Korea, Vietnam and up to today in the Middle East.
Following the playing of ‘taps’ by Nash Schindler, Brett Kinney and Allen Miller, members of the American Legion and VFW retired the colors signifying the end of the program.
Afterwards, the Elgin Community Center served lunch which was free to all veterans.