In front of him sat veterans who have served their country in times of war and peace. To his right and to his left sat students who have yet to be called to step up and serve their country. All who heard Clarence Schmitt’s words Friday morning won’t forget them as Veterans Day was observed.
Students from Elgin Public, St. Boniface Elementary and Pope John XXIII Central Catholic were joined by community residents to nearly fill the EPS gymnasium for the Veterans Day program sponsored by the VFW and American Legion.
For slightly more than an hour, patriotic music and readings filled the air and a World War II veteran spoke of war and how this community’s precious sons and daughters have answered the call to preserve the freedoms we continue to enjoy today.
Clarence Schmitt, a native of Elgin, returned home to give the Veterans Day address. He fought in World War II’s biggest tank battle “The Battle of the Bulge”, then returned home to become a businessman and raise a family. Speaking with just a few notes, Schmitt recounted how draft boards would select young men to enter the military. Others chose to enlist of their own volition, thereby being able to choose the branch of military they would serve in.
World War II came home to Elgin in June 1943 when Laverne Pelster was the first casualty from Elgin, he said. Others would follow in this and other wars as Elgin has a long history of men and women serving in the military.
Speaking directly to the students, he said the freedoms they enjoy today were paid for with the “price of these young folks’ lives.”
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